The city is marginal for a lot of beings – for many amongst us. Social science has become a method for constantly understanding who are we collectively neglecting and ignoring in our constant urge to move ahead.
This project focuses on one such community – animals. In our impressions, images and memories of our urban environments, other species like birds, mammals (dogs, cats etc.), insects, reptiles and others do not play a significant role. They are invariably seen as somehow a weak, less-capable and maybe an unfortunate form of life that doesn’t go along with our ideas of progress or development. In the Anthropocene, there is no imagination of the future in which we co-inhabit with the other species in a respectful and accommodative fashion. Animals are easy to feel sorry for – they do not speak, they do not seem to have the ability to fight for their rights, they do not seem to be even self-aware…
In this project, we will design for animals. And through design, we will spin a new urban reality for them. Not as an act of being charitable towards them but as an act of accepting the cyclical nature of the history of Earth… the same phenomenon that has allowed us to be a dominant species on Earth, will also at some point allow some other species to be dominant. Humans have nothing to do with this phenomenon. It has its own rhythm and its own pattern. The arrogance of being in the dominant position assumes a certain permanence and stability of things as they are. But the truth is that there is no permanence and stability in nature.
In designing for animals, we will focus more on inspiring playful behaviour, in creating feelings of homeliness and freedom and autonomous performance (without needing a human partner). Why playful behaviour? Play is one thing that allows a being (human or animal) to break out of its usual pattern of behaviour. Playful behaviour is purely spontaneous. In being playful, one forgets for a moment the position one has been forced to be in. Human babies play like animals. But as they grow, social conditioning does not allow them to be playful in the same way. Only the ritualistic role-play of games allows them to break-out into episodes of play later in life.
So for us to imagine certain modes of spontaneous play, we have to design for other species. In designing for other species, we might actually figure out the essence of inter-species communication. And that knowledge might actually prepare us for a future universe which has many known life-forms.
To begin with, let’s hope to develop an interesting set of playful objects for urban animals first!