Resource or Partner?

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Since prehistoric times, humanity has been deeply affected by the animal kingdom—and exerted a profound influence over it. Given our evolutionary proximity to animals and insects, as well as our identification with particular zoological species as having remarkable similarities to our own, it is no surprise that we Homo sapiens have long studied the zoosphere in order to determine our most advantageous relationship with it—whether for our own benefit or for mutual gain. The designed environment has been deeply affected by animal husbandry practices, the exploitation of animate organisms for material resources or labor, the mimicry of animal morphologies and behaviors, and the blurring of animal life and human technology.

From a resource perspective, humans have utilized animals and insects for food, materials, and energy since before recorded history. Hunting—or the pursuit of one animate creature by another—is the principal method employed for this kind of use, which treats animals as sources of harvestable assets. Early humans developed the means to preserve animal skins to augment their own—whether as clothing or architectural cladding. Nomadic cultures and communities migrating to new climates made particular use of animal skins as protective coverings for their shelters.

Animal domestication, which is considered to be the development of a mutually beneficial relationship between animals and humans, emerged as one of the important milestones marking the beginning of civilization. Domestication led to more predictable supplies of resources, and transformed wild and often dangerous creatures into farm companions (e.g., wolves became dogs, wild boars became pigs). The incorporation of animals into the regular operations of early societies transformed land use and mobility—horseback riding, the plow, and the cart directly influenced the development of cities and transportation networks—as well as structured the land-based flows of material resources.

The story continues in Hypernatural, which explores architecture’s new relationship with nature.


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