the river sweats; oil and tar

explorations on : feral, wild, and domestic

[editor’s note: the following comments are unedited and are in no logical order.]


In opening the discussion on what the ‘negative’ environments of architecture may be, we are forced to consider the nature of architecture itself to discern these alternates.  One might posit the definition of architecture as the technologizing of nature to suit our own needs.  Indeed many architectural phenomenologists suggest that it is the ordering of nature, the alteration of natural conditions, the rearrangement of nature in ways that we deem more appropriate.  If this is the case, then is the negative of architecture the re-naturalizing of the built environment?  Does this re-naturalizing of the built environment suggest that we begin to incorporate nature literally to the interior of a building?  Or does this rather suggest that we design in a manner that does not actively protect against the constant encroaching creep of the natural environment?  As we have all seen – nature will inevitably consume all human constructs over time.

Then the question that this suggests, is that to create this ‘weak’ architecture in a literal sense, does it simply become an exercise in neglect?  And can neglect truly be turned into an effective design tool.  At first glance, our gut reaction is no.  Rather, perhaps it is possible to find elements within architecture that are already wild that can be augmented or allowed to more readily flourish.

The question of inside v. outside has long been a trope within the architectural discourse – architects often attempt to blend the two

Defining the feral.  Feral seems to be the mechanism that drives a previously domesticated species back towards its originally wild state.  So, then what is it to be wild?  To be wild is to exist in a state untouched by humanity.  Is architecture then incapable of being fully wild?  One might suggest that they are inherently at odds.  But architecture may still be susceptible to the feral mechanisms that release wildness.  Therefore to achieve this, one must target specific characteristics within basic architectural conditions that become the most vulnerable to wildness.  Bear in mind that this wildness is not a direct reflection or result of neglect.  It is an escape rather than a forgetting.  It may be said that the escape can be made possible through forgetting, but it is not the only way.

What are the characteristics of architecture that are the most weak?  The JOINT.  The entrance, the aperture, environmental control, moisture, material weathering, rotting.  Are these all too literal of interpretations?  What in “architecture” [proper] is its weak point?  How do we bring the discourse of architecture to its proverbial knees?

When the world is over-analyzed and over-optimized, even in the sense of a business, we lose touch with our fundamental values of openness, kindness, generosity, etc.  Is this bordering too far from the discourse of architecture, or is it conjecture that leads to a mindset of design?  Aren’t we rather exploring the architectural possibilities in the negative, the wild, the subversive, the unnatural, the useless, the mad, the dirty?

An antidote to architectural creative nullity.

Is it possible to have something simple yet nuanced?

Are subnatures a subset of grey ecologies?

Is feral actually just the potential for unmitigated, uncontrolled, undirected growth?  Is this the opposite of neglect?  Should neglect be reframed as uncontrolled?

What would grow out of concrete? Steel? Wood?  Aluminum?  Plastic?  Glass?

Where is the sustenance coming from now?  What are the elements that feed the growth on these materials?  Light?  Shadow?  Fumes?

Feral – as a term – seems to be somewhat under-defined, perhaps suggestive of the ambiguous nature of those creatures existing under that classification.  To be feral, or rather to become feral one must have been previously domesticated in some manner.  Domestication implies the relinquishing of certain levels of autonomy, for whatever reason.  Then, to become feral, one must shed, reject, or flee the state of control that had been imposed.  This suggests that feral is not an adjective, but a verb – a creature goes feral, a creature becomes feral.  It is an action, it is an escape.  This then begs the question, an escape to what? It is an action that results in what?  What is the direction that going feral implies?  In the case of species it is a return.  It is the return to their activities prior to relinquishing their autonomy.  It is a re-gaining of their agency.  So where does this leave us as architects?  We believe that this suggests a number of things.  First, it was our original intention to reinvigorate people with a sense of agency, through creating a weaker architecture.  Therefore we may extrapolate that architecture becomes the device by which humans go feral.  Or, less forcefully, architecture becomes the device by which some may choose to go feral.  And yet, how is this to be done in our modern context?

We must be certain to distinguish between what possible effects on the population we are trying to achieve, and what are the elements in architecture that can bring this about.  It seems that we have been striving for a wildness in architecture, when in reality, we would rather see a wildness in people.  The question becomes, how can architecture act as a device to release this wildness, to activate this wildness?

Methods of Becoming:

Escape            [Resistance]

Theft                        [Coercion]

Madness            [Rejection]

An architecture that has escaped human intervention is inherently neglected as buildings require constant and methodical upkeep to maintain their domesticated qualities.  Its seems that ‘Nature’ proper has it in mind to constantly drive the materials that we domesticate back towards their previous wild state.  Enter entropy stage left.

Returning to a less literal level, the discussion of letting an architecture go feral may also imply the conference of agency back to an architecture.  This architecture is now free to pursue its own whims and fancies, however lofty or deluded, without the pressure/burden/prerequisite of human inhabitation/care/protection


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