Day 1

2nd Untaming the Urban Symposium 2018 Proceedings

Presentation abstracts and discussion questions

(see Symposium 2018 link for full shedule)

Untaming the Urban Book project – presentations and discussion

  • Chapter 1 PremisePaul Osmond (UNSW)

    Premise: Towards reconceptualising the urban: The starting point for this chapter is the city, as human artefact and human habitat. But before we attempt to grasp the complexities of a multi-species post-Anthropocene vision of the urban, we need to understand the comparable complexities of the multi-disciplines which we plan, design and manage our urban environments. Untaming the Urban is nothing if not an interdisciplinary exercise. Further, the myth of Modernism –that the city is a minimalist repository of clean lines, geometric shapes and human exclusivism – must be debunked. In reality, despite the continuing elimination, fragmentation and degradation of habitats consequent on urban development, some species thrive in city environments. Ever since we began building settlements humans have shared such places with non-human others. Yet these urban others have been largely absent from our design intentions. Cities are both extremely vulnerable, and major contributors, to a planetary ecological crisis. In this context, new ways of thinking about the co-existence of humans and non-humans are necessary as part of a wider project of dismantling human exceptionalism. Despite a traditionally anthropocentric perspective, design can play a central role firstly in understanding how non-human species interact with humans and our built environments, promoting co-existence between humans and nature in cities, and ultimately in the creation and co-creation of multi-species post-Anthropocene urban places.

    Key words: Habitat, interdisciplinarity, (post-)Anthropocene, transformation, Umwelt, urban ecosystem, constructed ecology

    Paul Osmond: has been engaged with sustainable development since the 1980s, both in practice and more recently, through teaching and research. He joined the UNSW Built Environment Faculty in 2010, from his previous position as manager of the former UNSW Environment Unit where he was accountable for development and implementation of the University’s Environmental Management Plan. Prior to this role, Paul worked in local government, where he was responsible for the delivery of a variety of pioneering environmental management, landscape and urban design programs and projects. His previous professional background includes experience in forestry, freelance technical journalism and the metal industry. Paul has qualifications in applied science, environmental management and landscape design. His PhD research focused on methods for evaluation and design of sustainable urban form. He is a Certified Environmental Practitioner, Practitioner member of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment, Registered Environmental Auditor, Green Star Accredited Professional and a member of the International Association for Urban Climate Member and International Ecological Engineering Society.

  • Chapter 2 PropositionWendy Steele (RMIT)

    Dirt Democracy: If ‘dirt democracy’ is the answer then what is the question? The application of dirt democracy and governance in this chapter is part provocation, part proposition, and part of a newly emerging untaming the urban lexicon that seeks to sets a frame for the multiple interdisciplinary perspectives of the city and the humans and non-humans who inhabit it. Our conceptualisation and theorisation, our narratives and practices of the city needs to change, teasing apart traditional notions of urban habitats to include multi-species and things. We need to better recognise how these concepts consider the political factors that go towards creating our cities: the role of human species and how nature and the non-human is pushing back and shaping the city in its own ‘unruly’ ways in order to advance the art and craft of ‘untaming the urban’. This is an interdisciplinary enterprise that holds central a dirt democracy and governance that offers hope for the urban ecosystem in the face of wild people, places and times.

     Key Terms: Philosophy, cities, dirt, governance, democracy, nature

    Wendy Steele:is an Associate Professor in Cities, Sustainability and Planning co-located in the School of Global, Urban and Social Studies (GUSS) and the Centre for Urban Research (CUR) at RMIT University, Melbourne. Her current research focuses on cities in a climate of change with an emphasis on critical urban governance. She is the principal investigator for an Australian Research Council grant on ‘Enabling social innovation climate adaptation at the local scale’.

  • Chapter 3: Why untame the urban? Jeroen van der Heijden (VUW, NZ)

    Five answers from different disciplinary backgrounds: This chapter focuses on the question ‘why untame the urban?’. Although such a question yields a variety of responses, here we have presented five key answers as they emerged from a broad scoping of the literature in our various disciplines. Firstly, untaming the urban helps to turn back biodiversity loss, help to address climate change mitigation and adaption, and helps to nurture environmental stewardship. Secondly, untaming is essential to overcome the human and non-human dichotomy that for long has been central to city development and urban research, and to envisage and achieve ‘other’ urban futures. Thirdly, such multi-species entanglements are a means of placemaking. Fourthly, this brings significant health, wellbeing, social, and economic benefits. Fifthly, as an intellectual project, untaming the urban allows for a broad variety of (urban) disciplines and professions to work together towards common goals. Finally, there are likely many more. Some of the answers are inherently conflicting and this is to be expected from an interdisciplinary research project. In other words, whilst we uncovered various perspectives in our disciplines that stress or illustrate the need to untame the urban, we also recognise that when looked at as an assemblage these key answers help to keep things in perspective. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the many challenges that call for and come with an untaming of the urban. There is also no single direction that the various answers are pointing to. In understanding, improving and rethinking relations between humans and non-humans in urban settings, and between the phenomena-of-the-urban and phenomena-of-the-physical-world-collectively more generally, there is a world to be won.

    Key Terms: Biodiversity, climate change, environmental stewardship, dichotomy, placemaking, health, wellbeing, social and economic benefits.

    Jeroen van der Heijden: is the inaugural Chair of Regulatory Practice at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand (School of Government). He works at the intersection of regulation and governance, with a specific interest in regulatory stewardship and dynamic governance regimes. The Chair’s research aims to help finding suitable local, national and international governance responses to some of the most pressing challenges of our time: climate change, resource depletion, and growing inequalities across the world population.

  • Chapter 4 Context – Ferne Edwards (RMIT, Barcelona)

    The City for Whom? The potential, possibilities, positives and negatives of multispecies entanglements within the modern zoopolis: Chapter Four explores the current context of the multispecies city. It develops ideas and theories introduced in previous chapters, namely the need to reconceptualise the urban as more-than-human (Chapter 1), [etc]. Key concepts raised relate to: the city-as-home (dwelling, umwelt); interspecies relationships (assemblage thinking and urban ecosystems); and approaches to overcome disciplinary divides (co-creation, experimental governance, co-habitation, cross-species design). The chapter employs three conceptual frames in which to view urban nature; ‘wild, stray and care’. These frames highlight the potential, possibilities, positives and negatives of multispecies engagements in the city: wild explores boundaries around natural/artificial, civilised/uncivilised, human/non-human, and progressive/regressive; stray examines aspects of ‘the other’, liminality and the unwanted; and care discusses approaches for ‘entangled empathy’ to de-centre the privilege of homo-sapiens. Interdisciplinary perspectives of cultural anthropology, urban geography, policy, design, restoration ecology, landscape architecture and climate change governance are employed to interrogate the question: who should live in cities and how can we live together? Plants, seeds, rabbits, birds and bees represent wild, strayed and cared for case studies and artistic interpretations that provide both grounded insights and conceptual gleanings into the reality of issues, complications and the positives and negatives of multispecies relations. Questions raised in Chapter 4 include: How are these considerations currently integrated? Do citizens even want this, and if not why not? How can we reconceptualise the urban as a multi-species environment? How for instance to we integrate design for urban threatened species into retrofitting of suburbs or expansion at the urban fringe. What would a multi-species stray ethics look like?

    Key Terms: Home, dwelling, umwelt, assemblage thinking, co-creation, experimental governance, co-habitation, cross-species design.

    Ferne Edwards: is a cultural anthropologist who has published widely in the fields of sustainable cities, food systems and social change. Ferne’s expertise includes food sharing, food waste, urban agriculture, alternative food networks, social innovation in the food system, sustainable urban governance, nature-based solutions, and urban beekeeping. She has conducted ethnographies in Australia, Venezuela and Spain. Ferne was a core team member of the ERC-funded project SHARECITY at Trinity College Dublin that accessed the actual and potential sustainability of food sharing practices in cities. Ferne is the leader of Work Package 1 for EdiCitNet, that supports the establishment of an international edible food cities network.

  • Chapter 5 Multi-Disciplines – Steve Dovers (ANU)

    Taming the disciplines in an untamed urban world: Multiple disciplines interact in the urban domain and in urban research, along with professional, community and other knowledge systems. Traditionally, these include planning, architecture, engineering, demography, landscape design, logistics, transport, housing and human geography. (And, right from the foundation of industrial era cities, public health.) If an untamed urban – where the non-human receives significantly more consideration and accommodation – the list grows: for example, from the natural sciences, ecology, meteorology, ethology, hydrology, botany, ecotoxicology and aquatic chemistry. Standard urban studies can be expanded and enriched by the addition of less commonly encountered disciplines, and these are called upon for a more untamed urban where human-nature interactions are to be understood and fostered more: consider cultural anthropology, environmental history, and the visual arts. Is this plethora of epistemologies, theoretical assumptions and methodological avenues the recipe for argument and an opaque mess, or a vibrant and productive albeit complicated arena of ideas and possibilities. This chapter uses some suggestive principles for integration and interdisciplinarity to explore how an untamed urban can be pursued – but not “solved” by a new interdiscipline (“Untamed (Unleashed, Uncut, Unplugged?) Urban Studies”?) – in research and understanding through combining different disciplinary perspectives to create insights while at the same time appreciating, retaining and working with multiple ways of knowing.

    Key Terms: disciplines, knowledge systems, transdisciplinarity, interdisciplinarity, multidisciplinarity, co-production.

    Steve Dovers: Emeritus Professor at the Fenner School of Environment and Society, ANU. Steve was originally trained as an ecologist and natural resource manager, and worked in local government and heritage management. He later studied geography at graduate level, and gained a PhD in environmental policy in 1996. He became an academic member of staff at the then Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies at the ANU in 1997. From 2009-2017 he was Director of the Fenner School of Environment and Society at the ANU, and an inaugural ANU Public Policy Fellow. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, was inaugural Chair of the Management Committee of Future Earth Australia; a member of the Advisory Council of the Mulloon Institute, Associate Editor of the Australasian Journal of Environmental Management, and member of the editorial Boards of the journals Local Environments, Environmental Science and Policy, and Resilience. Steve is a Senior Associate with the advisory firm Aither.

  • Chapter 6 How Other Species can Untame the Urban– Viveka T Hocking (ANU)

    Multi-species perception, methods, approaches: This chapter focuses on the part of the how question before action and implementation. That is, how to include multispecies perspectives in urban considerations and multispecies participants in urban methods and approaches. Here we explore how to include multi-species perceptions in our understanding of the urban environments through untaming aesthetics and technology that can re-imagine the urban as multiple colliding umwelten. Then these perspectives can form the basis for how we can consult other species as part of multi-species methods from traditional single disciplinary methods, expanding human-centred methods and accessing community, practitioner and Indigenous knowledge as well as a need for transformative interdisciplinary approaches. The art and craft of untaming the urban requires that urban theorists and practitioners consider, consult and collaborate not only across disciplines (as explored in the previous chapter 5) but also with other urban species.

    Key Terms: multi species perception, methods, approaches, aesthetics, technology

    Viveka Turnbull Hocking: Is a design-led researcher looking at the built environment for cross-species cohabitation, in association with the Fenner School at the Australian National University. She is co-convenor of the Untaming the Urban book project and symposium. Personal slave to 3 dogs, 2 cats, 5 goats, 5 guinea fowl, a roster, some guinea pigs, a rabbit, a flock of geese and ducks and a daughter.


  • Chapter 7 Praxis Simon Kilbane (UTS)

    How to facilitate, maintain and/or construct urban environments inclusive of other species: Grose (2014, p.70) describes constructed ecologies as existing in two types: the unintentional ‘as accidental or haphazard by-products of human exigency’ such as urban infrastructure that might inadvertently provide opportunities or difficulties to other species and the purposeful; ‘the deliberately planted and designed landscapes, perhaps with nominated species’ such as in a public park or wetland. If we leave aside the unintentional, sometimes called novel ecosystems (Hobbs, Higgs & Hall 2013) dealt with elsewhere and instead focus upon how to deliberatively maintain and/or construct new urban environments that are more inclusive of other species, then clarifications of method are required. In these environments, the arguable aim is for the longevity of all species without the detriment of any specifically and we have already read of the background to these potential new urban environments (chapters 1-6). However, what exists on the spectrum between unintentional and deliberate or purposeful design toward the creation of untamed urban environments and how what specific tools, methods, or techniques can be employed to make this happen? This chapter, praxis, argues that to this challenge a broad spectrum of actions exist. A series of project examples across a range of scales and several case studies will be introduced that demonstrate how this approach might achieve the stated goals. Discussion of these projects reveals that these are predicated by several specific antecedent methods including cultivating – in the words of Orr (2002) – an ecological literacy; through reframing and diagramming; via cross-disciplinary collaboration; increased education and knowledge; and the development of resources and toolkits that illustrate a new approach to both the maintenance and to amplify multi-species urban environments through a new design paradigm.

    Key Terms: design, planning, co-creation, maintenance, novelty, cross-species, urban environments

    Simon Kilbane: is a landscape architect and academic. Simon’s research interests and teaching explore the nexus between Landscape Architecture, Ecological Planning and Urban Design. His current research interests investigate the current and future role of the landscape architect in the city: this includes the potential of Green Infrastructure in urban environments and the translation of (landscape) ecological principles into robust design frameworks.


  • Chapter 8 FuturesStanislav Roudavski (Uni Melb)

    Thriving without Future: This chapter was tasked to consider how the concept and the practices of untaming might perform and evolve in the future. Seeking to escape deterministic and deeply depressing visions of the future as a singular catastrophic destination, it begins with a sketch of the structure of time. The nonreality of time in the scientific view of the world is used as a motivation to shift attention away from the habitual perception of time as a linear flow from the past, through now and into the future. The proposed alternative approach promotes the pragmatic usefulness of multiple perceptions of time. This framing sets the conditions for a comparative assessment of various geological, ecological and cultural systems that can serve as useful models for untaming. This approach encourages creative imagination by bringing into attention modes of interaction and living that often remain hidden by unfamiliar climates, geographies, economies, traditions, technologies and other local equilibria. The chapter maps the spectrum of possible scenarios, from the disappearance or redesign of humans to the escape towards other planets and lists likely sources of imagination for action seeking to overcome the momentum of the business as usual. It samples the field of urgently necessary work by reconsidering three areas: of ethics, governance and aesthetics. It argues that such reconsiderations are necessary because the choice between multiple future options will be driven by values and morals as well as by facts about past states and remedial actions. Technocratic approaches dominating today’s neoliberal mainstream are unintended and unequipped to deal with differing worldviews and value systems, establishing the need for maximally participant alternatives that could support the political power of all relevant stakeholders, including various nonhumans. As some of the emerging work in political science, law and design demonstrates, such inclusive political communities can be realistic and rewarding; paving the way towards rich forms of more-than-human cultures that can have the strength to strive towards wellbeing for all, even in the presence of the unfolding environmental crisis.

    Key Terms: more-than-human cultures, ecopolitics, inclusive ethics, nonhuman participation, alternative futures, speculative design

    Stanislav Roudavski: is an artist, architect and researcher currently working as a Senior Lecturer in Digital Architectural Design at the University of Melbourne. In addition, he is a founding partner of the creative initiatives Elseware and ExLab. Stanislav’s research interests include philosophy of ecology, technology, design and architecture; design fiction and conceptual designing; parametric and generative processes in architecture; emergence and self-organisation; complex geometries and digital fabrication; virtual and augmented environments; theory and practice of place-making; and practice-based research methodologies.

  • UU Book Case Studies

    (Case Study abstracts available on the day)
    Alexa McAuley and Nick Chapman – Practice Contribution
    Alison Haynes – Ecology
    byrd and Atune – Artist Contribution
    Clare Mouat – Cultural Anthropology
    Craig Ashhurst and Steve Dovers – Cross, Multi, Transdisciplinary
    Cris Brack – Urban Forestry
    Elizabeth Demaray – Artist, cross disciplinary creative practice
    Ferne Edwards – Cultural Anthropology
    Heike Qualits – Art Contribution
    Jacki Schirmer – Social Science
    John Reid – Art Contribution
    Joyce Hwang – Design Contribution
    Kate Noble – Artist Contribution
    Katherine Berthon – Urban Ecology
    Katherine Berthon, Ferne Edwards, Andrew MacKenzie – Urban Ecology, Cultural Anthropology and Landscape Architecture
    Katie Dafforn – Marine Ecology
    Keith Bender – Artist Contribution
    Leanda Denis Mason – Ecology
    Liz Barker: Artist Contribution
    Louisea Miranda: Artist Contribution
    Michael Norris – Artist Contribution
    Milica Muminovic – Architecture
    Ned Dodington – Design Contribution
    Ned Dodington and Johnathan LaRocca – Design/Creative Practice
    Nicci Haynes – Artist Contribution
    Paul Osmond and John Blair – Restoration Ecology
    Rachel Mogain – Ethnographer
    Rebecca Selleck – Art Contribution
    Sally Mumford – Art Contribution
    Sarah Robertson – Urban Geography
    Shags – Artist contribution
    Simon Kilbane and Tam Hanson – Landscape Architecture and Ecology
    Stanislav Roudavski – Architecture
    Stephen Barrass and Catherine Clover – Art Contribution
    Thomas Dick, Liz Barker, Louisa Miranda, Delly Roy Nalo: Artist Contribution
    Tom Buckland – Art Contribution
    Tracey Benson – Artist/Designer
    Viveka Turnbull Hocking – Design and the Built Environment
    Viveka Turnbull Hocking and Paul Osmond – Design and the Built Environment

  • UU Book Project links to Reflections from 2018 Fenner Conference – Amy Hahs

    Amy Hahs: is an Urban Ecologist focused on Biodiversity, Ecology, Connection to Nature, Landscapes, Sustainability, Planning and Design. Amy is based in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia and shares her neighbourhood with a variety of birds, bats, possums, frogs, insects and other critters. Amy runs an urban ecology consultancy


Art Opening, Drinks and Welcome by Art Curator – Tracey Benson


0.1 Creative PanelWaterways – Tommy Dick,
Plant Dye – Sally Blake –Water Ways Walking – Greg Giannis

Discussion Questions:

  1. How can creative practice help humans see the urban environment differently?
  2. What can a creative collaboration between humans and non-humans look like?
  3. What can more-than-humans tell us about ‘place’?




0.1b She the RiverTommy Dick (The Planet Spins/Field Ready), Liz Barker, Louisa Miranda, Camille Marie Eugenie Rouliere (independent artists)

She the River is a conscious contribution to community use and valuing of the local waterways. We do this by taking prints of the scum that collects on the surface of the waterways.

As an artist, Liz makes creek prints in rivers. She stands ankle or shin deep in the water and places her paper on the water’s surface and gently peels it off again. She then dries and varnishes them. The prints are beautiful and lyrical and they sing songs of the river. Songs of decay. Songs of new life. Songs of cycles. The surface scum is made up of phytoplankton, which is the base of the oceanic food web. Collectively these microscopic organisms, while floating around on the surface level of the world’s oceans and waterways, provide up to 80% of the worlds oxygen through photosynthesis. This surface scum is source of all life on this planet. It is in this way that the creek prints are guiding us into the world of science. Perhaps they are the maps themselves. Landmarks along the way. They are non linear pathways, maps to unknown places, maps of the river themselves. A glimpse of the beauty of the whole. A journey back to wholeness. By moving towards the dirtiest, scummiest looking areas in the waterway and making these beautiful discoveries, the work also speaks of the intrinsic beauty that can be revealed to us by looking at parts of ourselves that we don’t want to see. Wholeness is about knowing and owning all parts of oneself, the good the bad the ugly. The wonderful achievements and strengths, the past wrongdoings and weaknesses. Wholeness is also about taking responsibility for our actions as an individual, as a group of people, and as part of the planetary whole. Wholeness is about connecting with past traumas and re-membering. Inviting those broken parts of us back in to our body. Trauma often occurs as a physical disconnect in our middle section of our body. A severing. And wholeness is a reclaiming, a reconnecting a re-membering. A kind and gentle gathering up of all the lost parts and leaving absolutely no parts behind. This is wholeness. Once a sense of wholeness in the body is achieved. A full and complete feeling of satisfaction and grounded togetherness. When we feel whole we can begin to recognise sovereignty.

For She the River at UU we match the creek-scum prints with more-than-human entanglements with the riparian setting:

  • video recordings of performative dialogue with the waterways: Louisa embodying the river by dancing the river;
  • sonic recordings of the submarine environment – raw audio files of the sounds from underwater; and
  • chorographic artefacts from Tom and Camille’s doctoral research projects including photos, creative writing, and philosophical meanderings.
  • We deepen our unknowing about that which more-than-humans tell us about place and about sovereignty.

Tom, Liz, Louisa, and Camille: are tightly bound and loosely connected. We are artists and academics, terrestrial and maritorial, poets and priestesses, dancers, writers, and film makers. We are sovereign beings obligated by privilege. We believe in an embodied approach to experiencing connection that accesses wisdom.


CANCELLED 0.1c Plant Dyes in Urban Environments – Sally Blake (ANU)

The focus of my practice-led PhD research developed from my concern about disconnections between humans and nature, and how these may contribute to human-led ecological crises such as climate change and flora and fauna extinctions. I made artworks in which the connections and collaborations between the human and natural worlds were explored

As part of my thesis I created Dye Diary, a year-long visual and written ‘journal’ in which I documented the dyes I prepared from one hundred plant materials grown or sourced in my local area, the Inner North of Canberra. Plant dyes are only made between the plant materials and the actions of humans to simmer and process these materials. It is therefore a collaborative process between humans and nature. Dye Diary was developed as an investigation of the place in which I lived, studied and worked. By undertaking the Diary for one year, seasonal changes in plant availability and colour could be recorded and documented. The Diary consists of four separate but related bodies of visual and written work— pieced fabric samplers, woven tapestries, drawings made from pressed plant materials and a written record of empirical data, recipes and subjective observations.

Investigating my local place provided me with a way of finding meaning in the potential space between self and nature in an urban setting. It allowed me to discover more about the place where I live by unlocking and discovering the otherwise unseen colours that plants produce as dyes. These colours reveal a layer of complexity, beauty and wonder in the natural world that is otherwise hidden from view. Plant dyes uncover worlds of approximation and poetry, where the colours are influenced by the conditions the plants are growing in.

Sally Blake: practice is concerned with visualising the complex relationships and interconnections between the human and natural worlds through textile and paper-based media. To reveal these connections she often works with natural processes and materials such as rain and plants in the creation of artworks. In her contemporary drawings and textile works these natural cycles are explored as well as the consequences of their undoing. She feels deeply about disconnections in human understanding of the natural world which results in environmental crises.

Blake was awarded a PhD in Visual Arts from the ANU School of Art in 2015. She currently lectures in the SOA Textiles Workshop. In 2016 and 2018, she undertook research at the Australian National Botanical Gardens investigating eucalypts and their dyes. The 2016 project was supported and funded by the Australia Council and the 2018 project by ArtsACT.

CANCELLED 0.1a Water Ways Walking – Greg Giannis (Independent Artist)

My practice utilises walking to create opportunities for myself and others to engage with the world. Strategies are used that alter habitual practices in order to engender creativity, new ways of thinking and of representing place.

Since the birth of the first cities, such as Ur of Mesopotamia, human activity has been strongly invested in taming the urban, including taming our rivers and waterways. We have sought to control urban environments for a myriad of reasons, but primarily to ensure people can live comfortably together in close proximity and in good health. The practicalities of living together, however, have required many sacrifices. These have become more pronounced as the scale of this cohabitation has reached proportions that have stretched the capacity of the environment to sustain human life. The natural water systems that we congregated around, a necessary space for habitation, have been neglected and treated with great disrespect. Many now simply serve as sewers.

This disregard and neglect of a life source that is literally under our feet seems indicative of a greater human malaise. We seem to be only now waking up to our destructive impact and some say it is too late.

I propose that engagement with these hidden life sources can begin a process of healing and respect for that which enables us to live. In the first instance, the routes of urban waterways are utilised to provide strategies to break with habit and, as a consequence, facilitate new ways of thinking in order to provide fresh, respectful and new perspectives on human relationships with the environment and hopefully, solutions to the problems at hand.

Greg Giannis: Artist, educator and researcher. Diverse practice that engages with the space and place through walking and technology.