Bug Hotels: A pedagogical act of Social design

I have been trying to get this written up for ages. For most anyone who could care, the re-emergence of the meme/idea of small-non-human architecture as urban intervention, will make this project old news. However, I really enjoyed doing it, especially the DIY/low-fi nature of it. I presented Bug Hotels: A pedagogical act of Social design at Pecha Kucha Gainesville Vol 4 held back in late June, 2012 at Volta Coffee and Tea. The raw, original presentation is viewable below via Slideshare.

Following the same model I used for presenting my first/previous Pecha Kucha post, I have also post each slide, individually below. Underneath each image a caption, culled from the text I used as my “speakers notes“.
So my project is a “Bug Hotel” but it is also about strategies of instruction. The goal of social design is instruction. Designing with and for social dynamics/relationships.
Bugs, hotel and pedagogy. This conceptual map is applied to examine the idea of productive vs generative urbanism(s)…
What is a bug hotel? I didn’t know either until winter of 2010. They are literally homes for bugs, but not a roach motel. Apparently, widely known in Europe. They can be functional and still serve as a lawn ornament.
Online examples of them used as a teaching tool for ecological learning. Pedagogical in nature but also a tool of garden enthusiasts encouraged for their ecological benefits.
There are also more hip examples. Here in London part of a creative class branding, green urbanism exercise. Not just your everyday DIY version, but CNC machined, Arup designed. Very British Hi-tech.
A resurgence of productive urbanism as next form of contemporary green urbanism. Urban farms, backyard and community gardens. Permaculture vs. post-industrial, a sort of re-Pastoralizing of the urban. A functional landscape, productive and post-industrial.
From urban food networks to other forms of urban metabolics. A making non-consuming urbanism. Looking at the image of hives, and thinking about modular scalability. Humans have long united insects and production. But can one also consider the axis of functionally productive vs generating function(ality)?
Scalability bridges the large and local scale. A wetland(s) machine is one recent attempt, for Paynes Prarie. One interesting aspect of that project is the suggestion of a teaching landscape. There will be an interpretive tower and experimental (read monitored/controlled) test cells. It was this eco-system vs an expensive retro-pipe.
Animal architecture, learning from animal building but building not just for animals. With ecosystems/ecologies… Habitat for bugs meaning ecological generation, an eco-logic.
Why are ecologies important? There is a self-importance but also because of services. The buzzword is “ecosystem services”.They can provide, distributed vs centralized, in big or small, built environment(s).
Urban garden/farming is creative. Growing, making but key is also generating. Can you virally, re-produce again? How?
Through social design, more than an object as result. Designing future designs but also designers.
Up-cycling vs recycling. Now come the specifics of the project. Salvage is one way. High end vs low cost and high-tech vs low-skills barrier.
Site is adjacent to a backyard garden. Grow Gainesville is a local network of like-minded urban agriculturalists. Another example of social design. Growing, agriculture.
Improvised. Used locally (read: yard) available materials. Bamboo.
Varied material size and habitat. Stacked construction, scalable and mobile. No nails, temporary.
A one man job. Easy and quick to do. Re-purposed some old windows in garage as roofs.
Had enough material for two. One short one tall. Repeatable.
What do we have? A DIY, scalable, ecological infrastructure. A science experiment, can be refined, personalized and spread.
Some final examples for inspiration. Manuals, for socially designed interventions. Wherein ecological infrastructure and feedback loops enable an ecological altruism of extra-species-sociality.
Finally, as a brief post-script of sorts, I want to highlight a wonderful “city science” project Native Buzz. Native Buzz is run by the University of Florida (IFAS) Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab. The “goal is to learn more about the nesting preferences, diversity and distribution of our native solitary bees and wasps, share the information gained and provide a forum for those interested in participating in the science and art of native beekeeping (and wasp-keeping!)”. The web-site features a crowd-sourced map component as well as DIY Building Plans.
Since, I no longer live at 835 Nw 20 St, I didn’t add my two “towers” to the list. Also, while I noticed insects, spiders, mice and other non-human animals inhabiting my yard and it’s structures, I did not notice many native bees. Likely because I didn’t target the habitat specifically to them.

structured data, object models and zero-configuration networking as the tools of urban design

What would it mean to think of a city as a dense mesh of active, communicating objects — each one able to gather information from the environment around it, routinely share that information with other objects as well as human users, even act upon it where appropriate? And if we can treat the things we encounter in urban environments as system resources, rather than a mute collection of disarticulated buildings, vehicles, sewers and sidewalks, what might we do with them?

Greenfield goes on to call for the need for the city to be open in terms of data, ownership and usage (w)rites. In this vein he makes a call for something that came up often in last years Infrastructural City blog-discussion, lead by Mammoth, “Just as the novice programmer is invited to learn from, understand, and improve upon — to “hack” — open-source software, the city itself should invite its users to demystify and reengineer the places in which they live and the processes which generate meaning, at the most intimate and immediate level.

Via Adam Greenfield over at Urbanscale (here)

On systemic resilience, spatial enhanced species successioning and “Managing the Effects of Climate Change”

ASLA’s the DIRT recently published an interview with Kristina Hill, PhD, Chair of the Landscape Architecture department at the University of Virginia. In it Hill addresses the role landscape architects can play in dealing with global climate change. The two big takeaways are; first that landscape architects really need to go beyond the role of just designers. Even the best, most materially appropriate and ecologically sound design can only have so large of an impact. Hill believes that because of their holistic understanding of ecology and design what is really needed is for landscape architects “to wade into some of the policy and planning debates that surround these investments of public money.” In the future landscape architects will not just design when a client calls. Rather, by taking a more activist approach they can share their vision(s) with the public and in this the way shape policy debates not just landscape.

Additionally, in the interview Hill discusses three categories of actions: to protect, renew, and re-tool, which designers and elected officials have begun to develop in response to the climate change problem. Specifically, in terms of spatial strategies which allow significant roles for landscape architects to change cities.

Finally, drawing on the work of conservation ecologists she emphasizes the need to reduce “matrix hostility” in order to increase biodiversity and develop permanent as well as shifting/temporary buffer zones and corridors for animal and plant species diversity, distribution and climate related ecological succession. All of these attempts to mitigate the effects of climate change on the environment have spatial implications and thus suggest possible roles for landscape architects to play. Also of note was Hill’s discussion about the re-introduction of animals into urban human life. Specifically, the growing number of human/animal interactions including the presence of crows and coyotes in urban and peri-urban areas. As she notes both of these animals are long associated by indigenous peoples of the Americas with tricksterism, wisdom and and teaching. Their growing contact with urban humanity is raising new concerns and questions about urban ecologies and Hill wonders “What happens to that relationship when the teacher comes to the city and really thrives there? Will urban people learn new things about their relationship to other species?

Read more (here)