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Animal Architecture is a discourse of contemporary architecture stemmed from biomimetic and sustainable beliefs often seen as a subset rather than being considered an integral architectural practice. Animal Architecture not only utilizes ecology as a design intention, but also as a cultural and social intention, which allows it to bridge a multiplicity of fields other than architecture. In short animal arch harnesses the abilities of nature, but most importantly, it utilizes the ideas of adaptation and symbiosis, and integrates ecologies to form complex systems for both humans and other animal species to develop. Through multiple case studies interspersed throughout this article I wish to educate you on where, why, and how animal architecture has developed and what future implications it can have on our built landscapes. It is important to state that the bugs, birds, fish, and mammals in animal arch are the tertiary or subsidiary life forms and humans should gain the most from the field. Animal architecture in my opinion should not be seen as solely an animal conservation effort, but rather an exploitation of these creatures for our own gain. As a whole animal arch relies on functionality and optimization to maximize yields with as little energy as possible ‘similarly’ to modernist strategies where organicism stems, i.e. Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan. I emphasize ‘similarly’ because the original organicist paradigms were based on functionality, controlling ornament, creating democratic and integrated spatial arrangements, where animal architecture pushes further. A project that come to mind is found on and I believe deals closely with the organicist works of Wright’s ornament but can be implemented to function further than reiterating the projects original idea. The first project I wish to review is called “Bird-Friendly Masonry” and as you can see in images 1-3 the brick façade has a cylindrical brick addition for sparrows to nest inside of. The designer Aaron Dunkerton from London sees the harmful effects of our built environment on the important natural environment of living species, which in turn negatively impact our lives. Dunkerton demonstrates that the decline of sparrow population has an inverse relation with bugs and insects whose populations have increased. Dunkerton’s small façade interventions which act as what I call productive ornament create homes for our feathered friends and exploit their stomachs to level out the insect populations. Modernist organicists only scratched the surface of functionality and efficiency, they understood that accepting the landscape was important but they forgot to accept the animals as well. Animal architecture today cooperates and supersedes modernist functionalism, and that’s because it uses adaptation and symbiosis. This allows us to begin to understand why animal architecture has evolved out of our past failures, most notably modern industrialization, and urban/suburban sprawl.

IMAGE 1: blurring the lines between built and natural urban environments

IMAGE 2: Built model of cylindrical brick bird house.

IMAGE 3: diagram showing construction, housing, and cleaning of brick facade.



Labeling Industrialization as a failure to some may seem radical, because it has catapulted us into the 21st century, but looking in hindsight it has produced massive excess, increased our population exponentially, and disregarded surrounding ecologies. The manufactures and architects from the past never thought about the larger ecological and economic threat they could possibly pose. An interesting case study to exemplify industrializations absolute disregard of surrounding ecology and economy is the Onondaga Lake Superfund site in Syracuse NY from 1900 to present, image. Onondaga Lake was a large tourist destination but due to the Honeywell industrial plant’s direct runoff line into the lake it was deemed un-swimmable in 1940 and unfishable in 1972. This ecological disaster ultimately destroyed the surrounding cities economies by eliminating Syracuse and Liverpool as tourist destinations, destroyed an entire ecosystem, and polluted the water table of the greater Onondaga area. Images 4-6 show the project I worked on with Maxwell Rosner using Onondaga Lake as the site and focused on the salt industries impact, on Syracuse. We utilized the idea of the water cycle within our design because not only is it a closed looped system, but Syracuse realized originally how profitable it was using a natural system to produce salt. We chose the inner harbor as a starting point to break surrounding industrial barriers, i.e. destiny USA, the water treatment plant, and the city of Syracuse, and tried to reintegrate them with the northern, cleaner, portion of Onondaga. By creating an artificial shoreline using marsh grasses to improve the quality of water and bring bugs for both local species of bats and fish to feed off of the site could be in turn revitalized and bring people back to the area to enjoy what Lake Onondaga has to offer. By creating this symbiotic relationship with multiple species in a controlled man made landscape the local population could gain from such interventions with the additional profits of tourism. This is a small example comparative to other ecological disasters but begins to exemplify why animal Architecture should develop. These ecological man made animal landscapes can positively affect economies and people. This pull away from industrialization utilizing the ideas I hope have been resonating (adaptation, symbiosis, and exploitation) are not just limited to evolving our future architectural practice but I believe evolving humans culturally and possibly biologically. Ryan Ludwig’s research in the field of animal architecture and its effects in the Darwinian arena really struck me because he recognizes the effect our buildings have on human cultures from tribes to cities and can cultivate and respond to new cultures. This is because every living and non living thing is subject to a “Terra Fluxus.” Terra fluxus is a term coined by the landscape architect James Corner who worked on the highline with Diller Scofidio and Renfro. The meaning of his term is a ground constantly in movement. As a species we must constantly adapt to new conditions that arise from the ecological problematique, which is essentially part of this flux. By utilizing biomimetic sensibilities and realizing that nature can be used as a tool or catalogue of inventions we can

IMAGE 4: Boat dock plan of hexagonal troughs and smoke stacks. Site plan in top right corner, bottom right corner diagram of planted marsh plants cleaning water and bringing fish back to the area.

IMAGE 5: Top left diagram of illuminated smoke stacks attracting bugs and indigenous bats eating them. On top elevation of boat dock and bellow section of boat dock.

IMAGE 6: physical model of boat dock



evolve in the Darwinian arena to neither overcome nor conquer our environment but symbiotically exploit one another. This is what is so incredible about the field in animal architecture, because it allows for a pre built tolerance by incorporating animals into the design. We are trying to move past this postindustrial rut and into a greater network by creating a culturally closed loop system where we don’t waste. Alan Berger’s Drosscapes essay epitomizes how we should view built animal architecture. “Cities are not static Objects but active arenas marked by continuous energy flow and transformation of which landscape and building and other hard parts are not permanent structure but transitional manifestations. Like a biological organism the urbanized landscape is an open system” -Allen Berger, Drosscapes If we think of our buildings as moving landscapes that we and other organisms inhabit then we can start to understand that they can easily function as natural landscapes housing multiple species. As designers it is paramount to understand how natural landscapes function so we can test and build our landscapes to function better than what nature provides. For example looking into the animal kingdom through evolution of what helps species survive we can see many brilliant examples. In Coral reefs conditions for life produces incredible designs in animal habitats between predators and prey, but in some instances symbiosis. One of my favorites is the relationship of the clown fish and the sea anemone. The clown fish can withstand the shocking tendrils of the sea anemone and use it as protection from predators while keeping it clean by eating the bacteria which the sea anemone can’t protect itself from. Using these biomimetic strategies not only visually but functionally we can push the boundaries of current architectural function and form just as the bird friendly masonry does. Allowing that tolerance in design we don’t need to spray our cities with insecticides to keep out the bugs we exploit an animal who can will gladly help with our problem. This leads me to my final point ecological modernization. Dr. Maarten A. Hajer developed a policy model during the early 1980’s called ecological modernization. It is a discourse in policy making where the moving towards environmentalism can have economic and technological benefits at a multiplicity of scales. This very interesting field also stems from biomimicry and sustainability and in turn animal architecture. This discourse realizes that by exploiting our natural habitat we can save money and maintain a balance with our natural environment. An interesting and unrealized animal architecture project which exemplifies these ideas is called The Last Wilderness. The project takes on the issues of mangrove deforestation, in this case coastal mangrove forests in Madagascar, image 7-9. The local shrimp farming industries, which are located in these densely, populated mangrove areas keep many of these coastal economies alive, but

IMAGE 7: Site plan model highlighting how the canopy can continue to grow organically when more coverage is needed.

IMAGE 8: Rendering of how farmers fish for shrimp.



Mangrove wood is also in demand causing massive deforestation. The designer Jonas Braoude saw the opportunity to create an artificial mangrove forest system that can protect the shrimp and other fish species with a canopy and root system to provide the fisherman with a fishing facility to capture and distribute the shrimp easily and efficiently. This symbiotic relationship of a human built environment for animals to inhabit specifically is indicative to how animal architecture houses animals and humans, utilizes the biomimetic paradigm of learning from nature to create architecture, but also uses Dr. Hajer’s ideals of Ecological modernization. Ecological modernization validates animal architecture as a practical and efficient method of design, and doesn’t carry the “treehugger” sensibility or similar marketing gimmicks. Projects like these are very effective in increasing credibility for animal architecture because in our free market global economy efficiency and saving money is key, and if it comes bundled with a sustainable sticker all the more reason for large companies want to embrace animal architecture. Now we are left with the question what are the possible future implications animal architecture can have on our landscapes? The most important result is that new typologies of vernacular architecture can form by utilizing animal habits as an extra source for design intentions. Creating and extrapolating relationships both aesthetically and functionally the way we design will always be geared to not only what works the best, but what has the capability to evolve our specie and other species symbiotically. SOURCES:

Benyus, Janine M. Biomimicry: Innovation inspired by nature. New York: Harper Perennial, 2002. Berger, Alan. Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2007. Dodington, Edward. How to Design With the Animal:Constructing Post Humanist Environments. Houston : Proquest LLC, 2009. Hajer, Maarten A. The Politics of Environmental Discourse: Ecological Modernization and the Policy Process. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Hajer, Maarten A., Scott Lash, Brian Mynne, and Bronislaw Szerszynski. Risk, Environment, Modernity: Towards a New Ecology. New York: SAGE Science, 1996. Dunkerton, Aaron. Animal, "Bird-friendly Masonry." Last modified September 13, 2013. Braoude, Jonas. Aesthetics of Variation, "The Last Wilderness." Last modified July 26, 2013.

IMAGE 9: diagrammatic representation of how the canopy replicates the root system and canopy of the mangrove tress.


Animal Exploitation: symbiosis + adaptation  
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