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The Reverse Zoo

Jane Zhao Xin Chen

- Adj. Assoc. Prof. Khoo Peng Beng


Humans, being just one of an estimated 8.7 million species, consume an alarmingly mammoth share of our planet’s resources, acting as though we are the sole species inhabiting Earth, with most of us prioritising our wants over the needs of other species. The pandemic outbreak of Covid-19 further highlights that when humans take a step back, nature starts to heal. It is a reflection of the human arrogance, our lack of mindfulness and benevolence for other inhabitants of our planet, causing massive imbalances in the ecosystems. Humans are but visitors of Earth, yet we are so vested in a culture of self-indulgence, excessiveness and entitlement. This thesis serves as a critique of our anthropocentric approach towards the natural systems. 

Against the backdrop of Singapore, a shift towards ecocentrism during city planning enables human, architectural and natural systems to be merged seamlessly through the manipulation of physical landscape. Biodiversity coexistence, rewilding and a balanced ecosystem being the ultimate objective, the intervention transforms Singapore into karst landscapes, where humans inhabit karst towers and new water systems are formed by the contours of the karsts. Karst towers, hosting varying human activities and wildlife, are split into different levels in accordance with the sections of the Lowland Dipterocarp Forest, minimising disruption to surrounding biodiversity.

The Reverse Zoo envisions an Earth where Humans treat themselves as guests of the planet, where living spaces are built to view the outside world, where buildings are minimally invasive and in tune with natural systems, blurring the lines where man-made structures cease, and nature begins.

Supervisor's comments:

Jane’s project of a reverse zoo asks the question: “What if Singapore was planned with increasing our bio-diversity as a primary design parameter?”. Her project views site as architecture and architecture as site. Using the forms of natural karst formation as an inspiration, Jane imagines a possibility where human beings and nature exists in a closely coupled interdependence. She explores the possibility of the entire island of Singapore hosting endangered flaura and fauna with constructed cenotes as protective moats around high density architectural “mountains”. Jane’s re-imagination of Singapore invites us to consider the possibilities of cities that are tightly woven in an interdependent co-existence with nature.

- Adj. Assoc. Prof. Khoo Peng Beng
Jane Zhao Xin Chen

Work smart before working hard.