1. Unearthed    Pavilion exploring the typology of the (Company’s) Gardens

  2. On the Grounds of Intersections

  3. The Living Room

  4. Temporary Sleeping Space

  5. Parts of a Whole

  6. Beyond the Unswept Floor

  7. Research Projects



A personal and theoretical essay on humans relationship with nature

Growing up in Cape Town, South Africa, I was privileged to grow up surrounded by undisturbed nature where a  diverse, complex and thriving ecosystem was just outside my doorstep. In this context, my view of nature was that, even though it was within the city, it was separate. I felt as though I was in nature, only when I was surrounded by it, either on the mountains, the beach or the forest, where I was immersed within the sounds of nature. However, I have now become aware of the fact that nature is not a separate entity that exists separately from the human habitat. Rather, it is integrated within the urban context and an interrelated network of organisms that includes humans within the ecosystem.

This thought process reflects the key principles of ecology being interconnectedness, energy flow and balance. I have become particularly conscious of the interrelation of all species and how, even though I may not know the particular role of every species. Before the course, I was not fully aware of the importance of predators in the ecosystem and their crucial role in maintaining the balance of the food web and enhancing biodiversity. There is a close synchrony between prey and predators, the fact that both populations are changing continuously but are dependent on one another.

Empathy mapping of species is a very useful tool to analyse information on various species in the urban context. This expires the identification, habitat and interaction of the species.Creating an interrelationship map to explores the notion of system thinking through drawing on the relationships with other species, the habitat of the species. Changes in the system can have a ripple effect on many different species. For example, through our research project on the Spined Loach, we learned that the eutrophication of the farmlands heavily affects the habitat and life of the loach.

The concept of ‘rewilding’ is very important and made me question whether humans should design more green spaces in the city or, simply take a step back and allow nature to design the landscape. However ultimately, I believe we can integrate notions rewilding within the design the landscape, even in an urban context.

Urban Ecology refers to the total of interactions of all organisms within the built environment, including humans.

This concept refers to James Lovlovk’s ‘Gaia theory’, which explores the earth as a complex organism which can regulate its environment. Thus we, should take a step back as humans and allow for nature to replenish its biodiversity. I now, more deeply understand the importance of biodiversity, an invaluable, critically significant resource for the continuation of all species. Biodiversity is the driving element that sustains ecosystem services such as pollination, pest control and nutrient cycling.

However, biodiversity is gravely threatened by climate change. The greenhouse effect is a measurable increase in greenhouse gasses which are raising the earth's temperature at an alarming rate. The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is clearly due to human activity. This is resulting in detrimental effects such as global warming, seen within the oceans, soil and rising sea levels, to name a few effects. These changes are having an injurious effect on life on earth.

An ecological debate that I find particularly relevant is the question of whether it is better to have many small habitats throughout the city or alternatively, one large habitat. 

Some argue that a single habitat is more effective as it supports large populations and habitats. The edge effect refers to an organism living on the perimeter of the reserve, and that they are exposed to different environmental conditions, concerning quality and quantity of available resources. It is important to create a reserve where there is a balance between the edge and inner habitat. Areas with small habitat fragments exhibit especially pronounced edge effects that may extend throughout the range due the edge ratio favouring the edge habitat.

However, small habitats can be advantageous as they provide the opportunity for different and diverse niches. If there is high connectivity and movement between these different habitats, it is very advantageous for biodiversity and the species populations. The carrying capacity of an environment is essential for managing wildlife population and sustainably conserving natural reaseracse. This reflects niche theory as there would be many different niches that are separated. Creaiting ecological corridors and stepping stones are an interesting way of nature-inclusive design to facilitate the integration and movement species in fragmented habitats.

I can envisage a network of green spaces within the urban context, like a capillary network. Creating these bioregions, where the natural system are integrated the current urban system to encourage biodiversity. Allowing for the ‘rewilding’ of nature in an urban context is, in my view, an exciting way forward when developing and bringing nature into the city. This will also change the web of urban ecology as the addition of more species in the urban environment would create more interactions between humans and other species. This is extremely important in creating sustainable change to our cities and way of life.

To conclude, I would like to reflect on a precious memory of my late grandfather and his relationship with the species in his garden. I remember watching him skillfully and gently reach out into the air and caught a fly with one hand. He then carried this fly in his hand to the chameleon in the garden, where he slowly opened his hand to allow the fly to fly out to which the chameleon quickly caught it with its tongue.

This encompasses my relationship with nature as I am in awe of the complexity and interconnection of species and that as humans, we should learn to coexist better and recognise the value of the species around us. This act is also symbolic of humans role within nature as I think that we should gently facilitate the continuation and replenishment of biodiversity on earth as we have caused so much destruction. However, I think there is a fine balance between human involvement in the ecosystem and taking a step back and allowing nature to rejuvenate.