The hedgehog’s contribution to architecture

There is a wonderful gadget on the web – google alerts – you set it to alert you to the appearance of key words when they appear. So, obviously, I have ‘hedgehog’, my name and the names of my book (A Prickly Affair / The Hedgehog’s Dilemma). Occasionally this throws up wonderfully unexpected things – as it did today with a contribution to the latest edition of The headline, ‘Hedgehog translates into a livable design with grey water recycling’, was irresistible. And the image of a potential hedgehog-inspired building made me think it was time to try and find one for real.

All of the pvc spikes are light diffusers, and the copy of the article is delightfully clearly translated  – here is a sample:

“Designed by Cheungvogl architects, the Hedgehog concept of building is wrapped with the a skin that has been made of high gloss finished PVC sticks. These sticks, owing to their virtue of diffusing light, are called “Light Diffusers.” The skin of high gloss PVC sticks appear like golden-silvery shimmering rain. But, when seen from a close distance these PVC sticks become almost invisible. The direct sunlight is reflected due to the presence of light diffusers and reaches the interiors as diffuse or as we can say soft welcome light.”

And then, by complete coincidence, another architectural event with spines – the UK pavilion built for the World Expo in Shanghai has won a prestigious international architecture award. The BBC has a story about it here. Though for some reason they think it is inspired by a porcupine.

Hedgehogs are everywhere.


There are moments when a text message can so completely draw you into a story – the perfect headline. And that is what happened today when Emma sent this simple message:

‘Last night a hedgehog ate my shoe.’

The message raises so many questions – was she wearing the shoes at the time? If so, was she prone in the garden, perhaps having tripped over offending hedgehog? Was this a gentle nibble or a more substantive assault? How were her toes? Were her shoes of finest leather – perhaps understandably attractive? Or do her feet smell of slugs?

Maybe it is the weather, but I was keen to find out more and as she had been deemed inappropriate for her latest appearance in the jury, she was free to pop round for a nice cup of liquorice tea and to show off her shoes.

Okay – that is not as clear as I thought it was going to be, let us try again:

This was not just a casual nibble, this was a feeding frenzy. Emma had gone into the garden to pick up her sandals and found them covered in what she thought was slug slime – then she noticed that they were incomplete and had a horrific thought that there was a shoe-eating slug on the rampage. And then she noticed , looking cheekily on, a hedgehog. There was nothing else around that could possibly have been responsible. But could a hedgehog really eat an entire strap (she checked around, found a few fragments, but most of it had vanished) and cause such damage? “It looked as if they had been attacked by a Jack Russel puppy!” she said. “And it is possible that the shoes were originally inside and the hedgehog had dragged them outside – I only think that because all the cat biscuits had gone as well.”

Now, I have heard stories of hedgehogs getting excited into a frenzy of self-annointing when chewing on leather shoes, but these are plastic – and more than that, this is not just a case of chewing and then frothing up into salivatory froth.

Self-annointing is one of the mysteries of hedgehogs – why do they generate vast amounts of frothy saliva and then contort themselves, spreading it across their spines? The obvious answers do not hold true (for all hedgehogs at least) – it is not noxious substances being applied to the spines to act as an extra layer of protection, or to disguise their scent – as distilled water has been show to set some hogs off. But it is usually strong scents and flavours that get hogs going – for example if you wash your hands with highly scented soaps, all sorts of strange things can happen with some hedgehogs.

And then there was a hedgehog I was radio-tracking in Devon (it was Nigel, again, a hedgehog that taught me so much). I had been watching him eat from along the verge of a quiet lane when he came across a slightly larger black slug – probably around 2cm long. He did not start to eat it straightaway, he began by scrabbling at it, dragging it across the surface of the road, leaving a trail of mucus – seemingly making the slug more palatable. After eating it, however, he starting smacking his lips together and building up a froth of saliva that he then spread across his spines.

So back to Emma and her shoes – is it possible that this young woman has feet that smell like slugs? Was that what set of the shoe-eating rampage? Or perhaps there is a hedgehog out there that has a foot fetish! “I am just glad I was not wearing them at the time,” she said. “Hedgehog hospitalises Oxford woman – now that would have been a headline!”