FERAL CITY

…from Seth Barnard, an architecture student at the Cooper Union. Seth’s project, as he states, asks the simple question “What if we introduced [or re-introduced] zoological/ entomological/ botanical specimens into our everyday lives?” And we totally agree with you Seth. What if? What if we had a greater awareness of the animals already around us…

This project comes to us from Seth Barnard, an architecture student at the Cooper Union. Seth’s project, as he states, asks the simple question “What if we introduced [or re-introduced] zoological/ entomological/ botanical specimens into our everyday lives?” And we totally agree with you Seth. What if? What if we had a greater awareness of the animals already around us? What if a greater diversity of animals could find a way back into our cities, or towns? In the nooks and crannies of a decaying metropolitan World Seth Muses about this “What if” question. In the Feral City coyote’s take over the Holland Tunnel, bats squat undisturbed in vacant apartment towers and insects build their own habitats. The images are stark, uncannily axonometric and, with the exception of a lone imprisoned beekeeper utterly devoid of Human presence — images of post-Katrina New Orleans, or present day Detroit come to mind. We are indeed led to imagine an oxymoronic urbanism, one without human presence — begging the question: does such a radically diverse ecology exist only in the absence of humans?   We doubt this, and we believe Seth does as well. But you can judge for yourself  – scroll down to check out Seth Barnard’s Feral City.

“As we are bound and confined by buildings, so are animals in a zoo. These scenarios propose a new kind of ecosystem that coagulates the Homo sapien environment with an that of an animal. Just as the settler builds on the west, the animal builds in the “Feral City”. The “Feral City” is a wild city. The plants, animals and insects proposed are merely meant to be catalysts of an emergent ecosystem of many more systems and organisms. These are theoretical proposals for a symbiotic relationship with organisms other than ourselves, inherently evolving/ changing.”

Above Image : Kudzu Cow Tenement. Using the invasive species “Kudzu” as a building material, the vine would create a canopy of greenery supported by a steel steel-cable tent structure. Temple Grandin’s curvilinear corral would be inserted into Manhattan’s rectilinear framework, serving as a mentally stable meandering path for cows to move.

Coyote Tunnel: Located in the “attic” of the Holland Tunnel, the ventilation path also serves as a migratory path for animals into and out of New York City. The coyote is specifically able to adapt itself to live in densely populated urban environments.

Bee Shelter: Beekeepers have been known to stack beehives in columns up to 15’ high. The beehive presents itself as a building module for many reasons. A wall of hives would be a wall of heat: bees maintain a constant temperature of 95° Fahrenheit year-round. Many dwellings throughout the world have learned to incorporate wall cavities specifically for beehives. The architecture of the hive does not end with the box itself, but expands its territory into the surrounding flora, which is symbiotic to the survival of the hive. Thus, the house is as much a flower as it is a hive.

Bat Tower: Feral Architecture proposes to reinvent the use of stagnant buildings. For example, the conditions of the Holland Tunnel ventilation building in Manhattan, NY are ideal for bats. The building contains a series of fans that push air into and out of the tunnel. This industrial building has no human inhabitation, ideal air humidity, ventilation, and architectural components for the bat (lack of windows, thin slats that serve as doors, and proximity to a water source). Bat tubes and slots would be inserted on the ceiling of the ventilation shafts. Funnels above the bat tubes collect water to maintain the ideal humidity. The guano from the bats would be used for the attraction of more bats, as a fertilizer for sidewalk vegetation, and collected as a source of phosphoric energy. Sidewalk lighting attracts nocturnal insects essential to the bat’s diet; lamps are bat buffets.

Aviary: Using existing tenement structures, the aviary is shrouded with a netting of the invasive plant species called kudzu. A series of cables would initially exist as a growing guide for the kudzu. Kudzu grows rapidly, over one foot a day, and would cover a tenement building in a year. Funnels sit in the net to capture and eject avifauna.

Arthopoda Zoo: A field array of animal architectures: termites, ants, beavers, bees, and spiders. This is a collective of constructors, a zoo in which the animals build for themselves.
7 comments
  1. Very interesting article. I originally migrated to this site over from Linkedin when my curiosity got me wondering what animalarchitecture.org could be about.

    Seth’s project seems really cool, but I tend to think that the main drawback would be the cost of the property, What if this was something that you could introduce on top of buildings? Just a thought…

    1. Paul,

      Thanks for the comment. Yes this is often a real-world concern for projects such as these. I believe that Seth is suggesting that Feral City might occur in a place and time with a degree of urban decay, that is to say that the buildings would be ruins or at least not presently used. Seth, what do you think?

  2. Ned, you are right, to a degree… Detroit, St. Petersburg, Sao Paolo or any decaying city would be intrinsically inhabited by some kind of life form. Yet even in boom cities like New York, there are still districts, parcels, and other areas uninhabited (also factor diurnal and nocturnal conditions) by human activity. Furthermore, hundreds of urban buildings are occupied solely by machines (i.e. a tunnel’s ventilation shaft, 4th image down) used to power infrastructure… couldn’t these synthetic interiors lend themselves to become habitats of some kind?

    The premise of the thesis is to create scenarios in which animals and humans function symbiotically/ simultaneously… scenarios of contact. All of the processes in the thesis are so because they function “naturally” (willfully), not domestically. For example, although humans construct synthetic hives, bees produce honey instinctively- by their own will. In other words, the systems function as parasitic cooperations.

    The notion of property still exists on rooftops. Even so, if you look at the first second to last image, a net of greenery sits on the roof of an existing tenement in New York. The project was executed with the idea that animals have no concept of property: they live between the floor boards, attics, cellars, corners, garages, roofs, window sills, etc.. those “left over” spaces. Architectures are inserted just as organisms insert themselves on every strata of civilization. The great thing about the city is the fact that it has many ecosystems on a vertical and horizontal plane… so the albino snake could live in the subway, while the coyote occupies the street, hawks roost on window sills, and the plants occupy the roof, and the insects occupy the plants, etc, etc, etc….

  3. I think the real question is – if Eve hadn’t been tempted by that forbidden fruit – would our world look more like this today?

    Bravo to Seth!

    1. Thanks for the comment Erica. I think the idea that Feral City might be a kind of Eden is really interesting. But as to your question: If you mean to ask “have we been damned by a higher power to live in urban areas because of original sin” then, well I think a few folks might disagree… if on the other hand you’re suggesting that the human capacity for knowledge, language and technology has led to our current urban dilemmas then perhaps this is “the question” to ask. Now, how do we respond? I think Seth’s proposal is just such a response.

  4. It is definately possible for animals and humans to co exist in urban jungles. It is just a matter of providing the right conditions ie food and habitat and animals will take advantage of it. The problem is that we humans build human oriented habitats, and destroy others by doing so, pushing them into other habitats.

    The trick is to build up the food web for larger animals to survive, through recognising niches in which animals can inhabit. For snakes and cyotes to be around we need to be able to live with rats and mice and other ‘pests’ without exterminating them.

    I agree with Seth that if we provide habitat, the animals (if there are any left in the area) will come. I have a pair of micro bats that hang in the bathroom lampshade and fly through the house at night catching moths. Possums, bandicoots, water dragon lizards, parrots and birds all share our block with us. I do live in a semi rural semi urban part of Australia which has a lot of intact habitat and wild life and have direct experience how to enhance your surroundings to benefit animals.

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