OOZ; Natalie Jeremijenko


This is our follow-up Zoo Posting; the Zoo de Vincennes project raised a few issues that we thought needed further discussion and so we bring to you Natalie Jeremijenko. We came across Natalie’s work at the Systems of Sustainability lecture series hosted by the University of Houston this last summer (the same series where we found Fritz Haeg). Natalie’s been developing a body of work centering on issues relating to animals, robots and ecology and teetering on the edge of humanism. The work is experimental, process intensive, complex, and we feel is necessary to consider within the frame-work of Animal Architecture. Several of her projects are briefly described below but we recommend checking out her website for more information. Her Bio can be found here, but in short:

Jeremijenko directs the xdesign Environmental Health Clinic [httpxdesign.nyu.edu]. Previously she was on the Visual Arts faculty at UCSD, and Faculty of Engineering at Yale. Her work was included in the 2006 Whitney Biennial of American Art (also in 1997) and the Cooper Hewit Smithsonian Design Triennial 2006-7. Her research centers on structures of participation in the production of knowledge, and information and the political and social possibilities (and limitations) of information and emerging technologies — mostly through public experiments. In this vein, her work spans a range of media from statistical indices (such as the Despondency Index, which linked the Dow Jones to the suicide rate at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge) to biological substrates (such as the installations of cloned trees in pairs in various urban micro-climates) to robotics (such as the development of feral robotic dog packs to investigate environmental hazards). The Environmental Health Clinic develops and prescribes locally optimized and often playful strategies to effect remediation of environmental systems, producing measurable and mediagenic evidence, and coordination diverse projects to effective material change.

Quite simply Natalie’s projects begin when one asks the question: “what would it be like to design for other animals” and the corrolary: “what does it mean to design for humans as animals?” Four of her works are briefly described below.

Amphibious Architecture:

Amphibious Architecture is Natalie’s current investigation architecture’s role (actual or potential) to translate across the species divide. She states:

Objectives: To transform the urban/aquatic interface to create productive, ecologically remediative interaction.

It’s unclear if Amphibious Architecture applies to only amphibian animals (most of her projects here rely on a water based animal — fish or bird meeting a land based animal — human) or if it is a broader critique of a uni-valent architecture. Is she asking us to consider the outcome of an architecture of water? Or some other type of land architecture? Again, we’re not sure but we’re willing to go with it.

More than anything however, Jeremijenko’s Amphibious Architecture acts (again, it’s a little unclear) as a series of small experiments designed to discuss, provoke, or demonstrate a further step towards a multi-species architectural practice.


The Fwish Interface is a grid of robotics buoys that monitor water quality, sense fish presence and visualize information through colored LED lights. Its purpose is to collect and communicate real time data to the public about the water quality and fish activity.


Fish Sensor from xDesign Project on Vimeo.



Unlike the traditional zoo this is place where the animals remain by choice, a zoo without cages. Like a traditional zoo, it is a series of sites where animals and humans interact. However, the interactions at an OOZ site differ from that of a Zoo. Ooz is interactive in that it provides human a set of actions, the animals provide reactions and these couplets add to a collective pool of observations. The human/animal interface has two components: 1) an architecture of reciprocity, i.e. any action you can direct at the animal, they can direct at you and 2) an information architecture of collective observation and interpretation.

OOZ is one of these experiments in Amphibious Architecture. In OOZ Natalie has subverted the captive/captor dualism of your typical zoo and created a place where the animals remain by choice, a zoo without cages. And furthermore, unlike a traditional zoo, it is a series of sites where animals and humans can actually interact (not just nose/paw/fin against the glass). Ooz is interactive in that it provides humans a set of actions, the animals provide reactions and these couplets add to a collective pool of observations. This project reminds us of a previously posted graduate project at Rice University, Polyspecies Park that dreamed of a farm where the animals were kept withouth cages and allowed to freely (to an expent of course) roam around the range.

Ooz relies on complex sensorial equipment to attract, deter or illict interaction from its animal compatriot. Some of which are illustrated below:

Whale Belly is Another:


Existing flow patterns around the pier can be altered by the placement of the new amphibious architectural space. The shape is designed in such a way to create local regions of controlled flow, with characteristics that are appropriate for particular targeted types of aquatic life.




We don’t mean to suggest that this is all that Natalie does. She has a wide rnage of projects and certianly studies people as animals and products of their own particular behaviourisms. But regardless of her subjects Natalie consistently undermines a humanist agenda opening up a discussion around animal rites and aethetics with architecture mediating the debate.


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