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In the first session, we needed to present to projects of our own, explaining whether or not we found them conventional. This was a way to make us question ourselves in the way we work now and what would have to change to be able to ‘sense like animals’. There are two problems regarding this question. For the first one, it became apparent that architects are used to design for humans and so their means of representation are adjusted to this habit. However when design for or with animals, other means of representation will become necessary. For the second problem, if we want to be able to think like an animal, we’re going to have to be able to work collectively. That’s the reason why the seminar is a group work, they want us to work together like a pack of animals. To do this you have to, or rather: are free to think in an unconventional way.

We were introduced to the idea of ‘animal aided-design’. In this concept the most relevant question seemed to be “Who is helping who?”. It is based on the principle that the animals help in the design process and at the end there should be a better solution, but this should be for humans as well as animals. The aim is to develop a collective design attitude, with people and animals working together. However there arises a ‘problem of incommensurability’, this means that people don’t recognize the gap between competences of humans and animals. People tend to feel superior and therefore approach animals with the mindset of a human being. It became apparent that we would have to start asking different questions to animals (or at least in a different way), in a way we would get an interesting answer.

The unconventional approach, should also be reflected in the way we research the animals we want to work for/with. In one way or another we would have to in a sense ‘become’ the animal in order to be able to identify the needs and problems they encounter. This consisted out of using all of our senses, relying less on our primal sense (vision) and using these together to have a more intense experience. This synaesthetic method would probe to be necessary.

Animal aided design

Photo: Rupert Schelle

Thomas Thwaites ‘becoming a goat’

Photo: Tim Bowditch / courtesy of princeton architectural press

Experiment: sense like an ant

For more information on the different sensorial explorations, press the icons below, respecively for the ant, beaver and dogging architecture. The experiment and the different deliverables will be shown here.

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