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Multispecies Cohabitation

Feral Partnerships:
Architectures for human and other-than-human ecologies

[multispecies cohabitation: lived relations between species in shared space]

Indigeneous knowledge, postmodern theory and contemporary ecological sciences all foreground how human life is interdependent and entangled with other species. At scales from the microbial (such as the gut biota that maintains the human body) to the global (the vital role of natural systems in climate regulation), humans rely on the work of a multitude of other co-habiting species, who make our shared world habitable.

Modern, Western society, in contrast, might be defined by a desire to remove humans from these ecological relations. Multispecies cohabitation is thus seen as an obstacle to efficiency and repressed by ‘antibiotic’ approaches to human and environmental health. This has led to monocultures, plantations, harsh urban environments, and to cultural and social lives that are detached from natural rhythms. Today, we are bearing the costs in the form of disastrous blowbacks: pandemics, mental and physical conditions, climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse.

Isolated national parks or nature reserves have tried and failed to mitigate these disasters unleashed by modern life. Our natural support systems are divided by the conceptual and territorial boundaries of living bodies, cities, parks, or national borders. Instead, we must work towards re-forming ecological relationships in the shared, everyday, urban territories of human and other-than-human cohabitation. With this in mind, we are working towards a transformation of the disciplines of architecture and planning: one that looks beyond human-centric technical innovations and renewable technologies, and starts to envision a built environment enlivened by more diverse and thriving forms of multispecies cohabitation.
© 2022, Pamela EA

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