ENTO: Fostering Insect/Human Relationships through Design

This studio will focus on designing for insects, one of the most ubiquitous and diverse groups of animals on the planet. At first glance, this topic appears absurd. Insects can be a nuisance, a significant threat, and they are everywhere, representing 80% of the world’s species. It is estimated there are some 10 quintillion individual insects alive at any given moment. Yet insect abundance and diversity support the ecosystems that humans depend upon for life. Insects, at the bottom of the food web, provide critical ecosystem services including pollination, seed dispersal, decomposition, soil building, pest control, and wildlife nutrition. Without insects, our waste would not break down and most of our food would not exist. 

The health of insect populations is directly tied to the health of our landscapes. Urbanization, agricultural intensification, and climate change are impacting insect populations to the point where popular media has pushed a narrative of a pending global “insect apocalypse.” While recent studies reveal more nuanced spatiotemporal trends of terrestrial insect decline and aquatic insect recovery, the status of the global insect population is not currently knowable and is attracting more scientific attention as concerns of a sixth wave of extinction escalate. This studio embraces uncertainty and will take a research-driven and multi-disciplinary approach to designing for insects, including direct engagement with experts in the disciplines of entomology, horticulture, ecology, and landscape architecture. 

The semester will begin with a series of assignments and field studies focused on tracing the relationships between distinct insect taxa and three Eastern Massachusetts landscapes – a transect of rural, suburban, and urban sites. Students will research the needs of insects, review contemporary designed landscapes to evaluate their capacity to support insect life, investigate cultural practices and human-insect relationships, and participate in field work and entomological observation. By mid-semester, students will define an individual or group project of their choice that advances their research into a specific site-based design proposal. Design work will be evaluated based upon its relationship to knowledge developed throughout the semester and the degree of development and inquiry undertaken by the student.  Studio will meet on Tuesday and Thursday at 3pm on a hybrid schedule. 

This course has an irregular meeting schedule. Studio sessions will take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with a few exceptions, but will not meet in person every week. Gena Wirth will be in residence (Cambridge) during the weeks of 8/30, 9/13, 9/26, 10/11, 10/25, 11/8, 11/29, 12/7