PolySpecies Park



This project is very close to us, embodies many of the principles we are exploring here and of course we thought it would be worth sharing. Edward Dodington’s PolySpecies Park was completed while at Rice University and takes as its design target the factory farming industry and the ills associated with such high-density ecological contamination. However, more than just posing design solutions for a better, cleaner, or more amenable food production facility, PolySpecies Park starts to consider what a factory farm might look like if it responded formally to the needs and behaviors of the animals inside. That is, if the animals has some kind of say in their conditions or environments.


It turns out that this might not be as crazy as it sounds. There are in fact people out in the world today, Temple Grandin for one (who’s images are quoted below for a curved bovine race), who are interested in this question, and as we’ve discovered there are many complex post-humanist layers to uncover when one starts to design along side an animal, but let’s introduce the project first. From the project brief:


“PolySpecies Park is part farm, part tissue engineering factory, part eco-resort, and part research facility. The park is a producer of new types of engineered meat, a facility for studying dietary aspects of the new foods and demonstrates a new dialogue between living / non-living systems. To this end the park redefines all of the architecture, infrastructure, landscape and individual organisms each as animal players in a much larger system. By tapping into individual sensorial ranges of each species the architecture becomes part attractor, part program container and part animal/architecture interface. Specific buildings help to manage and attract each animal while also being prepared to follow a migrating herd. More than providing a production facility for new types of engineered meats, the park is an experience in becoming an animal or another animal.

The park is composed of roughly two dozen facilities of 4 types, each catering to different types of animal and producing a unique type of engineered meat. These animals are organized according to their method of interaction with larger environmental strata — Terrestrial animals (Hooved and herding animals), avian animals (Things with wings), aquatic animals (anything that lives most comfortably in the water) and finally the subterrestrial animals and microbes (animals in soil). As stated earlier each facility utilizes a range of species specific tools to lure, control and study each specific animal. There is the potential for cross fertilization later on (think tur-duck-en at the cellular level). Each facility will contain the equipment and materials needed for tissue production along with the infrastructure needed for tourism, research and on-site living quarters.”



The images below start to describe how these structured might start to interact with a variety of animals. Each factory must start to “tune into” certain mappable behaviors of the animal at hand. In this respect the building and animal start to enter a reciprocal relationship where one might imagine a period of heightened activity and agitation (as building and animal get to know one another), that settles into a regular rhythm of ebb and flow.



In the image below terrestrial Animals are illustrated to interact with fields of positive and negative senses that would influence the form of the building as well as bovine migration. Here they might migrate around controlled portions of the site until more permanent paths and pastures became established. Indeed much of PolySpecies Park appears to be mobile. Though, in the lower example, with the Sub-Terrestrial animals, the building is static while resonating with the ground.



Much of what Dodington attempts to accomplish with PolySpecies Park is also educational and there is a human, tourism and research component to each facility.

All of this we find quite interesting and compelling, if only slightly outlandish. What really impressed us was an apparent truth that we had never considered: Architecture and Farming are intimately historically connected. According to Dodington Architecture and Farming, for any given early civilization,  arrive at exactly the same time, that is at the point when the civilization ceases to be nomadic and to chooses, or is forced to pursue a stationery mode of a life. At that point stationery structures arrive along with farms and agriculture. Furthermore Dodington extends this fact to suggest that the history of Architecture perpetuates a species-ist world-view where those animals on the inside are farming and those outside are the farmed.


According to Dodington:

“We build the way we farm. We factory produce our homes and we factory farm our food. The way we build reflects the way we view ourselves in relationship to the beings that we farm and consume. We build walls, delineate one species’ space from anothers’, give preference to some domesticated species (canine and feline) and reject the majority of others — we house ourselves in private homes down long cul-de-sac and keep to ourselves. Currently the two trends, farming and living, appear to mutually reinforce the other. Might a change in one practice influence a corresponding change in the other?

The idea of living well and eating well first appears in western text in 1826 from the hand of Anthelme Brillat-Savarin who wrote in the Physiology du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transccendante “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are]. The phrase was later picked up by Ludwig Andreas Feurbach in 1863 who wrote “Der Mench ist was er ißt.” [Man is what he eats] . “You are what you eat” seems to have reached public consciousness in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s as the macrobiotic and organic foods movement began to gather popular exposure and, with a the successful arrival of businesses like Wholefoods, and growing numbers of farmers markets in major US cities, remains in the public mind. There’s little doubt that macro-biotic or “free-range” foods improve our health, but what about our living habits?”

Will a chage in how we conceive of the animals around us force us to rethink our own methods of living? Can farming or architecture bring about these kinds of cultural changes? Hard to say. However, Dodington has started a discussion where latent prejudices in our culutral history have been brought to light and where a new discussion about the possibility of formulating a truely post-humanist architecture might start to gather some actual momentum.


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