Cities are not just the concrete assemblages of buildings for people; they are the dwelling places of plants, animals and many other forms of life. Of animal species vertebrates feature most prominently in urban nature. Meanwhile, many other animals have inhabited cities or interrelated with urbanized societies for long as well, notably synanthropes (e.g., snails). However, they are not expressed yet in architectural designs, because both residents and professionals tend to pay little attention to such already-existing cohabitation. This thesis focuses on the study of snails in cities rather than on the more well-known species, exploring a more-encompassing view on animal city which pays attention to both mindful transformation and ecological performance.
The slow-moving creatures are widely found in artworks. They are sensitive to the human-induced changes in the landscape. High temperature and drought, soil contamination, habitat fragmentation due to climate change, and urbanization are the main threats to the lives of snails in Amsterdam. While their decline may affect other animals through the food web, human dwellers themselves also desire a liveable city that is climate-proof, pollution free and contains more green space. This means that conditions which snails prefer overlap with those of humans. With this in mind, the previously industrial land of Hamerkwartier has been reclaimed by this design of the “Snailcity”. A clean, moist, shaded and continuous corridor is designed that benefits both snails and people. The gigantic helix lying in the City’s heart symbolises this. It represents the idea of “poetic cohabitation” that aims to embrace all species living closely with human beings but beyond anthropocentrism or speciesism. Eventually, more poetic vocabularies will be required to bring new human-animal relations into architectural designs besides the strategies of emphasizing the visibility of animals, reclaiming the landscape and symbolizing the variety and affinity of different lives which are discussed in this thesis.