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Editorial: animal crossing – Architectural Review

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The AR’s February issue explores how we build around, for and against other animals

In this issue, the term ‘animal’ is used deliberately to include the human species, to shorten the distance humans have carefully constructed between themselves and other animals. Shrinking the space between humans and other species exposes the casual violence of this relationship, with its logics of supremacy, ownership and right to control. As Dinesh Joseph Wadiwel writes, ‘today, the increasing reality of human relations with other animals is mediated by the architecture of mass containment’.

While forests are felled and plastics choke the sea, every animal dwells in an environment made by human hands. Whole territories are structured by the lines drawn between us and them, articulated in hedgerows, fences, walls and ring roads, brick and chickenwire. Even buildings made for other animals are actually for us: a cow shed, buffalo barn and penguin pool are all architectures to manage our use of their bodies, to attend to the damage we have inflicted on their habitats, to let us watch them, catch contact with a ‘wilder’ world and reconnect with ‘nature’. Human exceptionalism undermines the idea that other animals are also spatial agents, that cities are large ecosystems and that spaces of cohabitation between species are indispensable.

When we talk about extinction, we imagine an apocalyptic end of days that results in a blank space where there was once a thriving planet. But the sixth mass extinction is under way and, as our planet becomes uninhabitable to humans, other forms of life will continue without us – just as they did long before we called this place home.

Lead image: A photograph by Marc Riboud conveys how human designations and technologies support a parting of ways with other forms of life. Credit: Marc Riboud / Fonds Marc Riboud au MNAAG / Magnum

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