Prosthetic Nests for the Powerful Owl

How can computer-aided design and manufacturing support more-than-human cohabitation in urban environments?

This project uses more-than-human and interspecies design approaches to make and test prosthetic habitat-structures for the powerful owl (Ninox strenua).

Prosthetic habitat-structures are increasingly necessary in response to ongoing elimination and degradation of the environment. Urbanization reduces habitat opportunities, leading to declining biodiversity and displacement of animals. Some critical habitat structures, such as large old trees, take centuries to mature/regenerate. Prosthetic habitats aim to reinstate absent habitat opportunities by grafting remedial elements onto existing structures. The project’s central hypothesis is that design conducted from a perspective of an animal can lead to innovative solutions for future urban ecologies.

Resulting designs employ innovative analysis, design, and fabrication technologies across three scales. We first use computationally supported mapping is to develop city-wide regeneration strategies. In the second step, we employ 3D scanning to identify and analyze medium-scale sites, such as trees and equivalent structures. In the third step, we use 3D printing and augmented reality to assemble complex prosthetic nests. The outcomes of the project demonstrate that utilization of ecological, technical, and cultural evidence for more-than-human design can expand the scope of possible urban futures beyond mitigation of anthropogenic harm. In addition to mitigation, the project develops visions for future urban ecologies and suggest concrete approaches that are suitable for implementation and field testing.

The project generated substantial interest among the public, the environmental conservation community (ANU, Monash University, Deakin University, Perth Natural Resource Management, Birdlife Australia), governmental agencies (The City of Knox, Melbourne Water) and design companies (Aspect Studios landscape architects, Arup engineering consultancy). Follow-on projects are in development.

Outputs:

Roudavski, S. (2021). Interspecies Design. In J. Parham (Ed.), Cambridge Companion to Literature and the Anthropocene (pp. 147–162). Cambridge University Press.

Roudavski, S. (2020). Multispecies Cohabitation and Future Design. In S. Boess, M. Cheung, & R. Cain (Eds.), Proceedings of Design Research Society (DRS) 2020 International Conference: Synergy (pp. 731–750). Design Research Society. https://doi.org/10/ghj48x

Roudavski, S., & Parker, D. (2020). Modelling Workflows for More-than-Human Design: Prosthetic Habitats for the Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua). In Gengnagel, Christoph, Baverel, Olivier, Burry, Jane, Thomsen, Mette Ramsgaard, & Weinzierl, Stefan (Eds.), Impact—Design with All Senses: Proceedings of the Design Modelling Symposium, Berlin 2019 (pp. 554–564). Springer. https://doi.org/10/dbkp

Research Grants:

Prosthetic Nest Sites: An Ecological Alternative for the Powerful Owl, William Stone Trust Fund, Melbourne.

Prosthetic Habitats: Designing Urban Nests for the Powerful Owl, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, Lord Mayor's Charitable Foundation, Melbourne, AU.

Place and Parametricism: Provocations for the Rethinking of Design, Australian Research Council, DP170104010, AU.

Project Contact:

Dr Stanislav Roudavski (CI), Senior Lecturer in Digital Architectural Design, University of Melbourne
Dan Parker, PhD Candidate, University of Melbourne
Dr Kylie Soanes, Collaborator, University of Melbourne
A/Prof Therésa Jones, Collaborator, University of Melbourne
Dr Bronwyn Isaac, Collaborator, Monash University
Nick Bradsworth, Collaborator, Deakin University