The human species has often undergone a lot of moral critique in many of its faculties of existence. Even though a lot of the negative consequences of human actions were birthed primarily with fairly innocent intentions, most of them are tinged with the stain of selfishness. The betterment of the human race has been a consistent pursuit, sometimes leaving a wave of inconvenience for the other organisms that share the same environment.
The ethical disputes over these problems are multifold. But when it comes to the architectural fraternity, we have also considerably contributed to the aforementioned problems. Skipping past the fact that some architecture refuses to acknowledge animals and the environment, we move to architecture that is made for the environment. Namely, animals.
Designing for animals is a practice originating from the primitive days of animal rearing, with fenced enclosures holding in livestock. But over the ages, the same practice has broadened its horizons to include Zoos, Sea-Parks, etc.
While many architectural marvels have emerged in today’s world for animals and their enclosures for viewing and exploring as such, for eg. zoos, petting zoos, aquariums, research facilities, etc., they cannot be fully appreciated. And that is only due to the fact that the conception of these core institutions is flawed. It has tones of underlying human selfishness. To bind animals in enclosures merely for the entertainment of the population lacks an integral responsibility to the environment and the proverbial humanitarian empathy we are known for.
Even though most architectural designers strive to bring ample comfort to the furry and feathered residents of these places, it cannot compare to the freedom of their natural habitat.
So the question is, should we design better for animals, or not at all?
When we consider the term ‘better’ as a comparative improvement in the architecture created for animals, it becomes imperative to understand what we intend to make better. Is it the form, flow and ambiance of the structure, or is it the experience of the animals? Is it an improvement in the entertainment of the human species or is it a more ethical, inclusive progress?
The Architecture of today has slowly recognized its involvement and participation in the ecological decline of the world and conscientious efforts are being made to repair the same. Responsible construction techniques adhering to the health of the environment are now being made mandatory. Architecture for animals is also evolving on similar fronts.
While there are still many animal enclosures cropping up across the world, serving solely for the enjoyment of the general populace, architects are also finding a better and newer direction for building for animals.
This new era of Architecture builds for animals, not for them exist in captivity, but for them to exist in all environments such that humans coexist with them. This is especially a crucial move as many such projects have aided in the enhancement of many animal species.
The Eco-Link@BKE is one such project. Conceived as an ecological bridge in Singapore, this structure has helped conserve and safeguard the lives of many animals in the adjacent nature reserves, especially the Sunda Pangolins, a species critically endangered within the country. The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was initially connected with the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. This connection was then severed by an Expressway that ran through it, bringing forth an onslaught of ecological consequences. Animals couldn’t cross and move between the two reserves, limiting freedom and the gene pool, while also facilitating wildlife roadkills. This Eco-link is a bridge that spans over the expressway creating a safe vegetated connection for animal crossing.
Many such wildlife corridors can be found around the world and are an example of environment-conscious design.
Numerous architects have designed structures for birds in the urban, not unlike the Owlery in Hogwarts. Oscar Niemeyer’s modernist Dovecote in Brazil is an example of architecture accommodating animals within human lives while observing no harm to either species. On similar lines, Joyce Hwang’s contorted wooden Bat Tower in New York is a roosting ground for bats, an endangered species. This bat-scraper with its zig-zag form is planted with insect attracting plants at the bottom while promoting the importance of all these organisms.
From bees, butterflies, fireflies to foxes, serpents, rodents, canines and felines, architects are slowly undoing a lot of damage caused in the past. It is a gradual process, but one that’s picking up the pace and moving in what seems to be the right direction.
Hence, the answer to the previously posed question is such; Creating better architecture for animals seems like a viable option. But only when it is done in a way that contributes to the natural biodiversity of the world, or such that it doesn’t discomfort the animals in question. But when such a solution cannot be achieved, it is always better to not create flawed architecture and leave the animals be.