ross mcleod and suzie attiwill


'Ecology is a three dimensional construction of horizontal layers stacked on top of each other, representing a hierarchy of organization from the individual through the population and community to the ecosystem. Of vertical sections cutting through all the layers, representing form, function, development, regulation and adaption. Each layer of ecological organisation has unique properties of structure and function. Each section in each layer of the construction represents a unique constellation of observed phenomena, perceived patterns and abstracted concepts.' - Robert E Ricklefs 1


In this project, a phenomena based approach to the creation of space was explored, using the definition of ecology in its broadest sense as an analogy for the practice of Interior Architecture and Design. The aim was not to develop a cohesive and exact theory in order to apply it to design, but to entertain ideas and explore possibilities; the assembling of a box of tools for the construction of different ways of seeing and the invention of new spaces. While the scope of the terrain was ambitious, the objective was not expertise in every field, but development of critical and investigative faculties in relation to design. Two distinct fields were developed.


'The contemplative idea of 'wandering' is more appropriate than 'exploring'. Wondering about the idea that the connection between things is more important than the things themselves.' -John Wolseley 2

Field A explored the notion of ecology as construct for the detailed analysis and description of natural phenomena. Using different examples from the history of ecological science and historical conceptions of nature, landscapes and ecosystems were explored. Observations were recorded and represented. From these studies, a trip to Wilson's Promontory National Park in the southeast of Victoria was engaged. Tools for the collection, collation and analysis of the natural conditions of the park were constructed using, as reference, the attitude of the bricoleur. Research was conducted in specific ways over three days; each activity encompassing a different focus of experience.

Day one entailed discovering edges and boundaries, patterns of nature, micro-communities, ecosystems and the effects of human intervention. Day two focused on the rhythmic passing of time, the changes throughout the day and the dynamic of dawn and dusk. Day three involved the construction of devices to monitor phenomena such as sun, wind, rain and tide, and the subtle language of cause and effect. Each day's observations and recordings had a bearing on the next day's activities. In time this developed into a specific direction and attitude in approach.

This information was then used in a singular statement, weaving knowledge, observation and intuition into a complex 'ecology' of space. The findings were expressed in a contained format, incorporating elements of painting, drawing, photography, collage, relief and model. The completed assemblages reinforced a personal 'way of seeing'; the complexities and coherence of rational thought combined with the energy of emotive response.


Field B posited the conception of the city as a layering of ecosystems. An exploration was made of the shifting boundaries of artificial and natural, nature and culture, interior and exterior, reality and virtual reality. Concepts of ecology and ethnology, ergonomics and anthropometrics, bodies and space, technology and objects, environmental considerations and the house as a machine for living in were discussed and debated.

The design project was entitled Living on the Ceiling, examining ideas of shelter, dwelling, home and habitation on Melbourne's rooftops. Notions of the domestic were extended via observation, analysis and contemplation of the rituals, hierarchies and patterns of domestic habitation. Research encompassed the effect that social and technological changes have brought to the domestic environment. Through individual design projections, suggestions were made regarding directions for future developments. The project ultimately created a poignant comment on the fluctuating nature of the home and the urban domestic condition.


1. Ricklefs, Robert E., The Economy of Nature, Chiron Press, New York, 1976

2. Wolseley, John, The Simpson Desert Survey, exhibition Catalogue essay, Australian Galleries, February 1993