Urban Refuge: Extinction and Evolution in a Multispecies World explores the ways in which we inhabit our cities, and forecasts what a future Glasgow might look like. Focusing on our relationship with animals and plants, it re-evaluates anthropocentric dominance through policy, senseware, and mapping. The project centres around a speculative government Act, considering what might happen if Nature was granted constitutional rights in Scotland – and became a refuge for multispecies – in light of climate change and the ongoing sixth mass extinction.
“The fact is that no species has ever had such wholesale control over everything on earth, living or dead, as we now have. That lays upon us, whether we like it or not, an awesome responsibility. In our hands now lies not only our own future, but that of all other living creatures with whom we share the earth.”
David Attenborough, Life on Earth
Contrary to what biologists have long believed to be true, evolution can now be witnessed within our lifetime. The many adaptations of animals and plants in our cities, both physical and behavioural, should be a wake-up call to all of us. We must rethink our impact on this planet moving forward – not just for ourselves, but for the many other species who will continue to live on it.
Employing speculative design and systems thinking, Urban Refuge begins to explore this societal shift. Visualising the changes that Glasgow has undergone since the introduction of the fictional Multispecies Integration Act of 2030, it proposes how we might end up in this possible future. In 2040, a government-run website (MIM) is developed to calculate the likelihood of successful species integration, providing foresight. A collection of field guides consider that Glasgow will be home to hyperlocal, evolved species by 2070, whilst 2080 sees the 50th anniversary of the pivotal integration Act – imagining a period of reflection and celebration within the city. AI-generated quilts become heirlooms, capturing what the city looks, smells, and sounds like from another species’ perspective.
Ultimately, the project navigates the uncertainty of this hopeful, mutual coexistence, acknowledging the interconnectedness of our world. It challenges the deeply-seated, Western, modernist belief that humans are above nature – reflected in how we exclude or manage animals and plants in our spaces – determining what can and cannot exist. I challenge this separation, returning Homo sapiens to nature instead of them existing in precarious isolation.
Written thesis available upon request.