Landscape Architecture - Honours
Striking back at the heart of urban sprawl, Querencia is an unavoidable, highly visible memorial to the victims of habitat destruction. Under the gaze of the power-brokers of the state of Queensland, this contested space is snatched back from the Anthropocene and colonised by the non-human residents of Brisbane. The antithesis of it’s urban surrounds, Querencia is exclusively non-human, an uncontrolled area of wild space, rejecting the imposed governance of the urban landscape.
“A querencia is a place the bull naturally wants to go to in the ring; a preferred locality… It is a place which develops in the course of the fight where the bull makes his home. It does not usually show at once, but develops in his brain as the fight goes on. In this place he feels that he has his back against the wall and in his querencia he is inestimably more dangerous and almost impossible to kill.”Hemingway, E. (2002). Death in the afternoon. Scribner
Globally, we are in the midst of an extinction crisis. Around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction (IPBES, 2019). Over 40% of amphibian species, nearly 33% of reef-forming corals and over 33% of all marine mammals are threatened (United Nations, 2019). Habitat destruction is the primary cause of this global crisis, with climate change likely to increasingly impact species as it’s ramifications become more severe (Hite & Seitz, 2016).
Australia’s record in regard to the extinction of fauna and flora species is abhorrent. Extinction rates and biodiversity loss in Australia are higher than any other developed nation (Waldron et al., 2017). Australia is ranked fourth globally for native species extinctions (IUCN, 2018), with more mammals having become extinct in Australia than any other nation (Waldron et al., 2017). In direct comparison to the decline of biodiversity internationally, the loss of species in Australia is overwhelmingly a result of habitat destruction (Australian Conservation Foundation, 2020).
With some of the largest sprawling cities globally (Demographia, 2021), many threatened species in Australia have adapted to urban settings. As a result, urban habitat has become a vital refuge for some of the most endangered species in Australia (Australian Conservation Foundation, 2020).
Unfortunately, not even urban habitat is safe in Queensland, with 64% of Australia’s entire urban threatened species habitat loss occurring in Queensland alone (Australian Conservation Foundation, 2020). It is therefore no surprise that Queensland’s capital, Brisbane, has the grim title of being the most destructive city for urban threatened species habitat loss in Australia (Australian Conservation Foundation, 2020).
One of the most impacted fauna species of habitat destruction is the Grey-headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus).
The destruction of Grey-headed Flying Fox camps and conversion to human habitat has caused Flying Foxes to establish camps in areas that are increasingly urbanised, often in mico-climatic conditions not conducive to Grey-headed Flying Foxes, resulting in mass heat related deaths. Mass starvation events resulting from the destruction of winter flowering and fruiting species has also severely reduced population numbers.
Subsequently, Grey-headed Flying Foxes are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ on the IUCN red list (IUCN, 2008), with current populations likely to be between 320,000 and 425,000 and falling, a 90% reduction in population since colonisation (Gimesy, 2021).
Grey-headed Flying Foxes are critical to many of the vegetative species that rely on them for pollination and seed dispersal. As a keystone pollinator, they pollinate and disperse seeds of over 100 floral species (Animalia, 2021), travelling up to 50km per night through a range of vegetative communities, making Grey-headed Flying Foxes one of the most efficient seed dispersers and tree pollinators (Upper Campaspe Landcare Network, 2021).
Simply put, if Grey-headed Flying Fox populations continue to decline and therefore are unable to effectively disperse seed and genetic material of vegetative communities, the survival of many floral and faunal species will come under threat. This will have devastating impacts to both human and non-human residents of Australia.
Excluded from Querencia itself, the human residents of Brisbane can gather at Reconnection Deck, the closest terrestrial point from which to observe the island. Here, the human community can engage with Querencia’s economic strategy, purchasing merchandise and sponsoring bats who require rehabilitation (with profits contributing to habitat land purchases). Humans are encouraged to engage with riverside elements of the educational campaign and learn more about the important role integrated urban habitat can have for the threatened species. As CCTV cameras stream live footage of the island around the world, locals on site are able to use binocular telescopes to survey the inhabitants of the island, as they reconnect with their urban neighbours.
Ephemeral activations provoke additional curiosity toward Querencia, such as temporal waterfalls which result from Brisbane’s heavy rainfall events. During periods of rapid downpours, water accumulates in the wetlands, before spilling over the structure’s overflow voids creating a dynamic temporal waterfall.
Events such as this, coupled with changes in fauna populations, flowering events, the shedding of leaves of deciduous species etc. all contribute to the performative nature of Querencia, maintaining the public’s interest in the island.
Engagement from the community is critical for Querencia to begin to provoke cultural change.
Querencia creates a new tourist attraction and nightly event. Every evening, Grey-headed Flying Foxes awake from their roosts. As they do so, a chorus of stirring Flying Foxes can be heard, before they stream from Querencia into the night. This will be not only an attraction for tourists, spreading the word of the scourge of Queensland’s land clearing practices, but also draw in the local community, helping to dispel the myth that bats in general are harmful or dangerous to humans.
For Querencia to truly generate cultural change, the physical structure must be accompanied with a strong educational campaign.
CCTV cameras situated at Reconnection Deck and on other key vistas, such as Neville Bonner Bridge and 1 William Street, will stream live footage around the world of Querencia, with classroom learning packages able to be downloaded by teachers free of charge.
An advertising blitz will run until there is significant cultural, and legislative change reducing the rates of habitat destruction in Queensland. This will be funded by merchandise sales, with celebrities and renowned graphic designers invited to release limit runs of posters during the year.
Querencia’s micro-climate ensures it is a safe roosting site for GHFFs when presently they may succumb to heat as part of a mass death event due to poor micro-climatic locations. However, starvation events in south-east Queensland are increasingly contributing to population decline.
Coinciding with Querencia’s installation, a campaign will run to propose the planting of winter flowering and fruiting species to feed GHFF populations, providing a food source when their numbers are largest in south-east Queensland. GHFFs have traditionally migrated to SE Queensland and NE New South Wales at this time to feed on winter flowering species on lowland plains. However, the flora that provide this vital food source have again been impacted by urban growth and land clearing in this ever-growing region.
This strategy would lobby for plantings in areas rarely used by humans in the evening, with low numbers of vehicle movement to eliminate the risk of vehicle strikes. Locations for plantings would include quiet streets (street trees), parklands, schools, areas designated as essential habitat and waterway corridors.
Animalia. (2021). Grey-headed Flying Fox. Animalia. https://animalia.bio/grey-headed-flying-fox
Australian Conservation Foundation. (2020). The extinction crisis in Australia’s cities and towns. Australian Conservation Foundation. https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/auscon/pages/17703/attachments/original/1596500683/Extinction_crisis_in_cities_and_towns.pdf?1596500683
Australian Conservation Foundation. (2018). Fast-tracking extinction: Australia’s national environmental law. [Report]. https://www.acf.org.au/threatened_species_habitat_environment_law
Demographia (2021). Demographia World Urban Areas. Demographia. http://demographia.com/db-worldua.pdf
Gimsey, D. (2021). Melbourne’s flying night gardeners. Doug Gimsey – Conservation and Wildlife Photojournalist. http://gimesy.com/melbournes-flying-night-gardeners/nggallery/page/1
Hemingway, E. (2002). Death in the afternoon. Scribner
Hite, K. A., & Seitz, J. L. (2016). Global issues : an introduction (Fifth edition.). Wiley Blackwell.
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. (2019). The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. https://ipbes.net/global-assessment
International Union for Conservation of Nature. (2008). Grey-headed Flying Fox. IUCN Red List. https://www.iucnredlist.org/ja/species/18751/8554062
International Union for Conservation of Nature. (2018). Red list category summary country totals (animals) [Table]. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. http://cmsdocs.s3.amazonaws.com/summarystats/2018-1_Summary_Stats_Page_Documents/2018_1_RL_Stats_Table_6a.pdf
United Nations. (2019). UN Report: Nature’s Dangerous Decline ‘Unprecedented’; Species Extinction Rates ‘Accelerating’. Sustainable Development Goals. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/blog/2019/05/nature-decline-unprecedented-report/
Upper Campaspe Landcare Network. (2021). Bats and pollination. https://www.uppercampaspelandcare.org.au/bats-and-pollination/
Waldron, A., Miller, D., Redding, D., Mooers, A., Kuhn, T., Nibbelink, N., Roberts, J., Tobias, J., & Gittleman, J. (2017). Reductions in global biodiversity loss predicted from conservation spending. Nature (London), 551(7680), 364–367.
Stuart has a keen interest in ecology, regenerative design and understanding systems thinking, particularly within an urban context. He is passionate about designing spaces conducive to the emergence of adaptive and resilient habitat for the voiceless, non-human residents of our urban environments. Stuart believes multi-disciplinary design, led by landscape architects, can be a key driving force to counter the global extinction crisis that we currently face, ensuring a heterogeneous, biodiverse future.