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Soil in the City: The Socio-Environmental Substrate

Debra Solomon and Caroline Nevejan

*Debra Solomon first coined the term 'multispecies urbanism' to indicate her artistic as well as research practice of soil building and urban regenerative ecology. With thanks to Debra Solomon, Neuhaus adopted this term as the title of the learning trail that relates to theoretical and material practices aimed at (re)developing urban environments for inhabitation by collective, entangled human and more-than-human bodies.

Debra Solomon and Caroline Nevejan identify a lack of soil awareness in today’s globalizing world. They argue that soil is a fundamental element in future ecologies that needs to be addressed in urban theory, methodology, and practice. Soil, in particular urban soil, is part of a social system and should as such be integrated in policymaking. Exploration of a new paradigm for urban soil is discussed in the presentation of the art project of Urbaniahoeve, an Amsterdam-based foundation.


Debra Solomon and Jaromil

Entropical is a research project which was initiated for the International Year of the Soil in 2015, by Debra Solomon and Jaromil. They started their explorations by posing questions about the relations between soil ecology and food production, compared to abstract algorithms and computer calculations. By laying out the relations, they searched for ways that the processes could learn from each other, for example: How can bitcoin positively affect the rhizosphere? or How can mycological processes affect and inspire digital systems?

On A.I. and Cities: Platform Design, Algorithmic Perception, and Urban Geopolitics

Premsela Lecture 2015/6: Benjamin Bratton

Benjamin Bratton delivered the annual Benno Premsela lecture at Het Nieuwe Instituut in 2015. Within the lecture 'A.I. and Cities: Platform Design, Algorithmic Perception, and Urban Geopolitics' Bratton examined the consequences of widespread digitalisation for our cities. The city is the place where complex information is brought together and organised. The nature of this information is both human (residents and tourists) and non-human (buildings and cars). Meanwhile, virtual networks have grown into a megastructure on a planetary scale and have become an inextricable component in the city. Bratton argues that it is, therefore imperative that we view the virtual and physical city as a totality, outlining ways that cities could develop in relation to algorithmic perception, sensory perception, cognition and physical automation. Read the full transcript of the lecture here.

Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution

Menno Schilthuizen

Menno Schilthuizen is an urban ecologist, and studies how our fabricated, urban environments are accelerating the evolution of the animals and plants around us. The wildlife inhabiting urban spaces, are being forced to adopt fascinating new ways of surviving, and often thriving. In our cities, evolution can be seen to be happening at a much quicker pace than Darwin thought possible.

Orchid Mantis

Benjamin Bratton

Benjamin Bratton began the 2015 Benno Premsela Lecture at Het Nieuwe Instituut with the case study of Sanzhi Pod City near New Taipei City in Taiwan. The city was abandoned in 1980, and had lain empty until demolition work began in 2008. When demolition began it was discovered that five species of orchid mantis, as yet unknown to science, had overtaken the ruins, and multiplied to a population of an estimated 10 million insect inhabitants. “Etymologists observed that the orchid mantis civilization had developed an incredibly complex division of labour, not only between species but also within species. Strict systems of food capture, nest construction, and types of stigmergic communication between individuals of different species that has never been observed anywhere before.” Benjamin uses this example to outline how the city of the future is not for humans, “The Anthropocene, the reframing of the Earth in the image of industrial modernity, will be short lived. It will be less of a geologic era than a geopolitical instant. Humans are vanishing. Our cities are not our own. We are building the habitats for life forms other than our own. We are their tools; we are the robots for future insects”.

Download Soil in the City: The Socio-Environmental Substrate by Debra Solomon and Caroline Nevejan below.