Humans live in an invertebrate world: more than 97 percent of all known animal species have no backbone and, of these, the vast majority are insects. On the whole, landscape architecture has ignored insects in favor of mammalian and avian fauna, yet insects have the largest biomass of all terrestrial animals. While some insects, such as the monarch butterfly and the honey bee, are singled out for special attention, humans are generally oblivious to the bulk of the Arthropoda. This studio addressed the charge of myopic speciesism by side-stepping charismatic species and emphasizing the role that more obscure or less “agreeable” species play in the complex ecologies essential to healthy ecosystems.
In this, the first studio of the master of landscape architecture program’s sequence, students had the opportunity to incorporate complex, insect-based ecosystems into the design of green infrastructure. Just to the south of the Gateway Arch grounds in St. Louis is a crumbling, long-neglected, historic industrial district that is physically isolated from the greater urban context by elevated interstates, rail lines, and the bulky Mississippi flood-control wall. Students speculated on the reformation of this terrain as a performative mixed business and residential center. They explored how the site could function in a completely new way, supporting the city by providing a complementary arthropodal infrastructure based on living systems that avoid myopic reliance on a few privileged species.