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  • Writer's pictureLeslie Ryan

Including Animals

The Covid-19 virus is upending the urban landscape we have designed, as humans retreat into isolation, and goats, turkeys, wild boar, fox and other denizens of the periphery return to reoccupy the center. The virus is opening the door to what have been ghosted animal lives and making them visible again. We cannot ignore the elk when they are strolling along an Oregon beach, or the coyotes as they play in a San Francisco park. It is an opportune time to reconsider our relationship with the wild, and how we design for the continuing presence of animal others.

Development for human habitation and use profoundly impacts biodiversity and habitat for animal others. As ecologist Paul Shepard wrote, unless our designs of landscapes and cities purposely include space for animals, the more-than-human species occupying the planet will simply disappear.

While it is primarily in the places of everyday life that our relationships with animals are made, architecture, landscapes, and building materials are most often designed to keep animals out, or at least contained in predetermined places. The house has “failed” if there are raccoons in the living room or mushrooms in the carpet. (I see a whole research project on window screens here). There are inspiring exceptions to architecture and landscapes that are hostile to wild things, such as a growing focus on wildlife corridors, art and design work to include animals, and community programs such as Boston’s Urban Wilds and Clinic12’s #tinyroadsigns

Including Animals is also a work-in-progress with the Fuller Center for Productive Landscapes at the University of Oregon. Stay tuned for more on an upcoming competition and (virtual?) symposium.


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