San Mei Gallery presents the first UK solo exhibition of design collective Feral Partnerships. Their research-based practice creates an archive of buildings designed for humans and other species in order to inspire new possibilities for building worlds with the other-than-human in mind.
Birds have taken to our cities for as long as we have been building them. From pigeon to swift to Peregrine falcon, a multitude of bird species have come to depend upon human-made structures and environments for shelter and sustenance. People throughout history have responded in kind, building elaborate dovecotes, birdhouses, and towers to celebrate birds and to shape these interspecies relationships to mutual advantage.
Simultaneously, the expansion of urban environments poses threats to avians that are ill-attuned to thrive in harsh, human-dominated spaces. Today, the list of affected species is expanding. Industrialisation has disrupted traditional agricultural practices that depended on and supported birds over centuries. Modern buildings and methods of construction are confusing to birds’ senses and offer limited nesting opportunities, sealing off eaves and cavities that were once sites for cohabitation. And while many bird species are familiar with crossing vast distances, now all birds are on the move, undertaking precarious migrations prompted by climate breakdown and biodiversity loss.
Presenting the city from a bird’s eye view, Feral Partnerships’ exhibition speculates upon how creative practices of multispecies care might help to secure the shared futures of birds and people in an uncertain and volatile world. Models, drawings and iconography form the core of the exhibition, with objects, details and architectures presented on specially constructed display plinths resembling bird houses, giving form to diverse stories of human and bird cohabitation from across the planet.
A large-scale mural created using ultraviolet paint stretches across the windows of the entire gallery. Using paint that is visible to birds and not the human eye, the mural marks a gesture of protection and care for birds as well as speculation on a more-than-human sensory engagement with the world around us.
FERAL PARTNERSHIPS is a design collective founded by Matthew Darmour-Paul, James Powell, Enrico Brondelli di Brondello & Beth Fisher Levine, born out of frustration with professional and academic practice standards in architecture around ecological and biodiversity loss. Their research project entitled “The Architecture of Multispecies Cohabitation” creates an archive of buildings designed for humans and other species in order to inspire new possibilities for building worlds with the other-than-human in mind. The work has been presented at the POLLEN Biennial Conference 2020 and the London Festival of Architecture 2021, and was the subject of a solo exhibition at the University of Sydney’s Tin Sheds Gallery from April to June 2021.