Designing for Wild Life: Enabling City Dwellers to Cohabit with Nature

Moxon, Sian (2019) Designing for Wild Life: Enabling City Dwellers to Cohabit with Nature. In: IASDR Conference 2019: Design Research, 02-05 September 2019, Manchester School of Art. (Submitted)


People benefit from living alongside nature. Yet we face a troubling scenario of alarming global biodiversity decline, vast loss of greenspace to urbanisation, and harmful disconnection of city dwellers with nature. This is a particular problem in existing residential streets, which make up a significant proportion of UK cities and could offer substantial greenspace and wildlife habitat.

Living with increased contact with nature, people would benefit from better health and wellbeing. Moreover, greening the city would improve air quality, and reduce overheating and flood risk. But policy to increase greenspace and its biodiversity focuses on the easy target of new developments and public spaces; and guidance for the public lacks urban emphasis, street-scale thinking and design oversight. Meanwhile, management of greenspace in domestic gardens is largely unregulated and residents underestimate its importance for environmental functions, including providing wildlife habitat.

Design research could enable city residents to change how they live, with designers using their skills to communicate a better way to live alongside nature in cities. A practice-based case study, ‘Rewild My Street’, seeks to inspire and empower London residents to adapt their own homes, gardens and streets for wildlife. Through architectural drawings, product specification and a spatial manifesto, the project shows a vision of a residential city street adapted for living in harmony with nature. This offers a design-led template for creating a global network of biodiverse, sustainable cities.

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