House of Species
School of Architecture | Graduate Architecture •
Students | Krithi Krishnan, Vineeta Mudunuri •
Faculty | Jonas Coersmeier, Ariane Harrison, Erich Schoenenberger, Olivia Vien •
With the proposition that our cities foster hostility towards other species, we explore the ethical stances of designing a shared space of cohabitation. At our project site, House 14 on Governors Island, we bolster the cooperation between humans, pollinators, seed dispersers, and pest controllers with spaces carved out of permeable and sustainable materials. With collaboration between species as the marker of design strategy, we aim to soften the rigid boundaries of the House through self-sustaining microenvironments.
By using porous textures derived from physical models, placing human and non-human species at various scales, we speculate about the territories and interactions between multi-species. While the ground floor remains environmentally uncontrolled, the first floor includes spaces that are environmentally controlled and maintained for human comfort. Permeable ground and native plant species such as common milkweed and blue asters aid in the retention and absorption of rainwater. These plant species are also an important resource for pollinators such as endangered monarch butterflies. The inclusion of walkways and balconies that extend beyond the boundaries of the house provides an added layer of interaction with the species around the site. The project examined thickness, pockets, and nested forms as means to create constructed habitat for native birds and small rodents such as squirrels. The existing walls fold or peel off to expose the interiors as a way of inviting species to share the space. The project envisions an interlaced volume of human and non-human territories that becomes a house in itself. The design intervention speculates on the boundary of a domestic container and the traditional manicured lawns of a Victorian house.
Through the study model shown here – the walls are illustrated to be continuing from the ground. By creating rough textures and undulations, the residue spaces become habitats for species. This provokes a re-examination of our current building elements and redesigning them for a new shared nature. Small ponds and decomposing pits spread across the tectonic landscape make way for colonies of mushrooms, frequent visits by dragonflies, and the growth of moss. Flowering plant beds like lavender and milkweed would be successful in persuading various species of butterflies to visit the site. The presence of London Plane and Ginko trees on the site also adds another tier of the existing environment that would interact with the growing new system. The programmatic development of the projects is integrative of wet, dry as well as avian life forms. The presence of multiple small ponds/pits on the tectonic ground leaves an opportunity for the decomposition of mulch and other organic matter found on site. The walkable surfaces are punctured to allow free movement of species from one medium to another. The study and evolution of this core as a hyper-dense development of various local ecologies on a small plot also serve as an educational objective. The ongoing development of our research would involve: Studying constructed nature, rethinking how we build domestic spaces to make them more inclusive to other species.