An Augmented Ecology of Wildlife and Industry | Wen Ying Teh

Following our last post about the Wieliczka Salt Mine, we found out this student project that won the Medal Winner 2009 at The President’s Medals Student Awards. The project An Augmented Ecology of Wildlife and Industry by Wen Ying Teh [from AA] was born from a three weeks voyage to the South, following Darwin’s expedition to the Galapagos Islands and South America.

As tutors Kate Davies and Liam Young says:

There Ying found a precious and fragile wilderness teetering at the point of collapse, an ecology in crisis, bearing the scars of a ravenous tourist economy and Salt mining industry. Her research led her to focus on the cuts and gouges of the Galapagos Salt lakes– a ‘violence’ which has displaced the endangered flamingo flocks but supports a tourist economy vital to the Ecuadorian population.

In the Galapagos, at the north side of one of the the volcanoes is an abandoned salt mine, which can be visited by walking along a 3 km long coastal trail. The mine was last used during the 1950’s and 60’s as a source of sea salt for locals and for export to the mainland.

This project is conceived of as a provocation and speculation on how these two demands may be hybridized as an alternative to the typical conservationist practices applied across the islands. The two traditionally mutually exclusive programs of salt farming and Flamingo habitat are re imagined as a new form of symbiotic designed ecology; a pink wonderland, built from colored bacteria and salt crystallization, dissolving and reshaping itself with seasonal and evaporative cycles. The building becomes an ecosystem in itself, completely embedded in the context that surrounds it.

These projects is a perfect example of biomimicry and the way we can use, as architects and designers, all the wisdom from nature. In this case, seems like Wen Ying Teh asked himself what would nature do to create a new type of hybrid ecology where industry and endemic wildlife can not only co-exist but also be mutually beneficial?

From the student statements:

Formed from fine webs of nylon fibers held in an aluminum frame, this strange string instrument allows the salt farming process to be drawn up out of the lake, returning it to the endemic flamingos whilst at the same time ensuring the continuation of a vital local industry. Using just capillary action, salt water from the lake crystallizes on the tension strings forming glistening, translucent enclosures. It encrusts the infrastructure of a flamingo observation hide and solidifies into a harvestable field ready to be scraped clean by miners.

The Galapagos Islands are part of the UNESCO World Heritage site: wildlife is its most notable feature. Currently, the rapidly growing problems, including tourism and a human population explosion, are further destroying habitats. That’s why these valuable efforts to rescue sites like this, that is included on the List of World Heritage in Danger. As described in the UNESCO site:

the Galápagos are a ‘melting pot’ of marine species. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflects the processes that formed the islands. These processes, together with the extreme isolation of the islands, led to the development of unusual animal life – such as the land iguana, the giant tortoise and the many types of finch – that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection following his visit in 1835.

“The Galapagos is an ecology in crisis. The project is positioned as part documentary, part science fiction offering both a rigorous technical study and a speculative near future wilderness. An evolving future for the islands is imagined and it demands an evolved and mutated architecture.” -Wen Ying Teh


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