Synesthetic City


Session Title:

  • Urban Ecologies

Presentation Title:

  • Synesthetic City




  • When we think of The Natural World we see it as separate to our own urban existence. But actually the natural world lives alongside us in our cities very successfully, perhaps more successfully. Other species having been around for millions of years longer than us use other ways to navigate their way around the cityscape. Other ways, which could give us a distinct advantage in these heavily visually, data oriented times.

    So what can we learn from them beyond biomimcry?

    Bats use sonar to see and mark iconic structures; these become ephemeral sonic markers around the city to guide them. By creating sound architecture they avoid the visual overload us humans absorb everyday.

    Ant pheromones leave trails so that ant traffic flows continually with no traffic jams and fast and direct routes. We are learning from their smelling skills to create better flow around the city.

    The circadian rhythms of nature support natural wellbeing; we can perhaps recreate them in a city that never sleeps to prevent mental illness?

    You only have to look at the £160 000 motorway bridge designed and built especially for water voles to continue their pilgrimage to the other side to understand the English are obsessed with helping other species with their historic migratory paths, paths forged by generations of predecessors. However, we’re far less inclined to create culture paths through the city for cultural ways of being, passed down from our human ancestors.

    But looking to other city animals and how their past informs their present and future, surely this is of utmost importance. The data we learnt from our past is why we’re here today. The museum of yesterday built our genetic blue print for today… We should learn from how other animals process data collected about our urban city. We should see new ways to reconnect with our past to learn for our future. Then data knowledge we gather from our ancestors will support our future survival.  Understanding data from Natural world technologies could help progress human evolution by inspiring new technologies to support our sustainable futures.