Topic: An in depth exploration of how machines relate to landscapes. A prototyping experiment centered on the forecasting phenomenon known as the concept car.

Machines and human technology have been part of our environment for a very long time, but we’ve never really designed them for that complexity. The overwhelming majority of human technologies and infrastructure in our environment is human-centered to the point of ignoring the needs of non-human life, and in many ways even our own. That’s a choice even if it is made unwittingly. Now the Earth's surface is forming scare tissue. The proposed name for this process is the Anthro- pocene. It shows how we’ve underestimated the impact of our technologies and infrastructures on the environment.

In a programme called Machine Wilderness we’ve been prototyping ecological robotic systems to be fully immersed in biodiverse ecosystems. How do you design for that complexity? In this proposal we suggest taking an iconic machine that is in our environment and re-imagine it from the perspective of the environment. There is only one real contender: the car.

One thing stands out when you do a visual survey of recent concept cars. It is not so much the car as the environment it is set in. The the BMW Next 100 is a good example. It shows the companies vision for the next 100 years. The car is surrounded by an asphalt desert all the way to the horizon. That may not be the environment many of us are hoping for in the next 100 years. Why not start with something like a biodiverse forest in stead.

We propose to start the design for a radically different concept car based on one or two large animals and their ecological role in our landscape: their behavioral signature / phenology. We are interested in what a concept car and the design process would look like when it is designed as an expression of the landscape in the way organisms are. Rewilding technology.

Applying phenology to product design: from efficiency towards grace

  • elephant phenology: 80km/day radius, 200kg/day foraging, elephant zoochory, breaking forest-cover, browsing, grazing
  • complex life history? infant (growth) and mature (dispersal) states?
  • wheels are history, legs are the future?
  • cars need highways, elephants create savannah corridors: EU highway map becomes map of corridors?
  • technozoochory? machine as carrier/dispersor of seeds

Extending communication / navigation from systems to organisms / landscapes: towards a rich spectrum of biological/environmental interactions

  • elephant low frequency communication?
  • interpretation of signalling by species in the landscape?
  • ecologically and seasonally informed navigation using data from environmental data portals? (list) like Observado
  • from smart tech, towards wise tech. (long term memory?)
  • from quantitative navigation towards qualitative navigation? (from GPS to songlines)

Embedded energy cycles: towards local energy regimes

  • elephant grazing: 200 kg/day plant matter, inefficiently digested; excrement is a nutrient source for others, seeds still intact..
  • trophic interactions and ecological energetics (harvesting / feeding the landscape)
  • artificial gut Bristol Robotics Lab

Embedded material cycles:

  • local material sources
  • material lifecycles
  • epimechanic life?


  • 4 legged
  • carrying capacity
  • tusks
  • trunk
  • large stomach
  • pressure elephant's foot on soil 27.000 Pa (human 23.000 Pa)
  • concept_car_notes.txt
  • Last modified: 2016-10-28 10:31
  • by theunkarelse