March 9, 2017
Unearth zoo started out with an initial brief for ‘Preparing the Ark’
How does a zoo look like if we redesign the zoo’s nature for a site-specific extra-terrestrial future? Preparing the ark builds on the important narrative function that has arisen in the zoo over the last centuries.
How does a zoo look like if we redesign the zoo’s nature for a site-specific extra-terrestrial future? How are we able to tell about earth’s planetary nature if we kickstart new ecologies on our forthcoming colonies. Which spatial instruments do we have at hand on these foreign planets? Taking inspiration from state-of-the-art technologies and novel ideas about closed ecological niches, these worlds will go far beyond the functional architecture and principles of the Biodome. Preparing the ark builds on the important narrative function that has arisen in the zoo over the last centuries.
“The earth is a spaceship, with the sun as our energy supplier. We are all astronauts”m, architect Buckminster Fuller wrote these words in 1968 in Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. The idea that life is bound to the earth, in which we float through endless space, comes from Henry George. In the 19th century in progress & poverty how scribed down, “it is a well-provisioned ship, this on which we sail through space’. The zoo presents itself nowadays as the noble champion of conserving these provisions of endangered species. By (re)telling a small number of successful stories of animal species that got extinct in the wild and were reintroduced through zoo breeding programs, the practice of the zoo is justified as a whole.
This zoo is a closed ecological niche, which is maintained / gardened by man. A ecological bubble in which the purity of species, the individuality of species stands at the centre of its own universe. The ‘spaceship zoo’ of today does not immediately tell us the story about the biosphere of the earth. What happens to the concept of the zoo if the biosphere goes missing from human and animal experience? If this is not automatically at hand anymore? Can we design a novel spaceship earth? A place where we can tell new stories about life on earth in the interplanetary colonies of the near future?
Where in Noah’s story all the animals are gathered in a wooden Ark to save them from the great flood, we live in a time where realistic plans are ready to lift of into space and establish new ecological colonies. Where in the past the sex of the animal species was considered important, all animals came in two, at the moment only a sterile DNA strand is sufficient, to awaken a whole species (mammoth from elephant). Can we design a new nature or ‘set in motion’ our earthly ecology on other planets? What role does artificial life take place in this new Ark? The zoo of the future should be a place where we explore the possibilities and limits of life. A place where ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ are not each other’s opposite, but a continuation of life, a place where the elasticity of ecosystems is explored; where a ‘deep ecology’ (work by Esmee Geerkens) is dissected and rebuilt into new ecosystems. According to Alex Rübel (director of the Zurich Zoo) it is and there is no nature in the universe, but by spreading the earthly life outside the atmosphere in the coming decades his position could completely change.