Architecturing-with all Creatures: speculating with children and other creatures for an ethico-political environment*

This paper describes a speculative research-creation study intended to create a pedagogical tool to decenter the human in the practice of children’s architecture education. The research intertwines the reflection on Peñaloza Caicedo’s architectural-educational practices, speculative methodology, and a speculative research-creation event. We discuss how children living in Colombia and Australia performed this event, can experiment with living inquiries as the organic transformations of materials occurring without the children’s intervention. This can lead them to build spaces thinking-with the other-than-human agency, and spaces for different species to share bodies, houses, landscapes and universes. Architectures that might be possible for an equitable terrestrial future.


Este artículo describe un estudio especulativo de investigación-creación, cuyo objetivo fue crear una herramienta pedagógica para descentrar lo humano en la práctica de la educación de arquitectura con niños y niñas. De este modo, se entrelazó la reflexión sobre las prácticas en arquitectura y educación de Peñaloza Caicedo, la metodología especulativa y un evento especulativo de investigación-creación, con niños y niñas que viven en Colombia y Australia. Se propuso que niños y niñas experimentaran con indagaciones vivas como las transformaciones orgánicas de los materiales, que ocurren sin su intervención. Esto los llevó a construir espacios pensando-con la agencia no-humana, y espacios para diferentes especies, para generar un futuro terrestre equitativo.

Children’s architecture education for social and ecological justice on Earth

Children’s architecture education is argued to be a practice that could help the recovery of the planet Earth. Over the last four decades, children’s architecture education or built environment education has introduced children to architecture, with the collective concern of fostering children’s awareness about space, so that future generations can make responsible choices for their environment, for their daily inhabited spaces (UNESCO and UIA 2008, 2). As such, children’s architecture education has emerged as a practice working under the premise that learning about architecture is a form of environmental education. The environmental approach, however, has an anthropocentric understanding of the practice of architecture, and the practice of education. Architecture is commonly concerned with: “something about us humans, our physical and mental needs, all our senses, measures and activities” 1 (Räsänen 2005, 13). This definition of architecture excludes other-than-humans’ needs, senses, measures and activities, and places humans at the centre of the architecture or built-environment experience. Instead of humans building-with the environment, the assumption is that humans build on an environment that is perceived as a blank canvas for human inscription. Second, within education theory, different pedagogical models have placed the child at the centre of the active-experiential learning process, child-centred education, i.e., Rousseau (1974 [1762]), Fröebel (1980 in Brosterman 1997) and Dewey (1929, 1902); while the environment has been backgrounded as the passive context for children’s social, physical, and mental development (Malone and Cutter-Mackenzie 2019). These anthropocentric approaches in the practice of children’s architecture education or built environment education make children perceive themselves as separate beings from the environment, rather than children as beings in co-existence with human and other-than-human beings, to collectively build-with them, in the world.

In the light of these anthropocentric views, it is argued that human-centric practices of children’s architecture education or built environment education cannot respond to the present calls for the Earth’s recuperation. Firstly, human-centric approaches cannot respond to the current geological era of the Anthropocene (Crutzen and Stoermer 2000) in which human activity has significantly altered the planet’s system and ecosystems and constitutes a contemporary force that calls for humans to de-centre their position in relation to other Earthly beings. Second, these approaches fall short when it comes to addressing one of the UNESCO (2017) goals or learning objectives for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD): to reduce inequality within local, national and global process, because the social disequilibrium prioritizes humans. And third, centring the human misses the current pandemic moment, that is crucially calling “architects to recognize the limits of the human and its place in a larger natural world the human does not control” 2 (Grosz 2020, 2). In the most recent and shortest ecological era, the Anthropocene, the practice of children’s architecture education or built environment education must cultivate children’s awareness of the human and other-than-human co-existence within the environment. In this sense, humans –beginning in childhood– can make ethical or egalitarian decisions to recuperate a damaged Earth.

This raises the question, how can a pedagogical tool for the practice of children’s architecture education co-cultivate an ethico-political environment? In other words, how can a pedagogical tool for the practice of children’s architecture education nurture children’s awareness of the agency of all matter, of all human and other-than-human creatures co-existing and co-building with the environment? In the following pages, we attempt to answer this proposed question by presenting a speculative research-creation event in which an ethico-political pedagogical tool is created to invite posthuman practices of children’s architecture education to respond to the present calls for the uncertainty of a better future on Earth, to nurture social and ecological justice on Earth. To this end, we first examine how the speculative research-creation event was framed with the reflection on Peñaloza Caicedo’s architectural-educational practices. Next, we analyze why was the speculative thinking and methodology chosen, these being attuned with non-human-centric theories, with research-creation events, and with what seems to be impossible futures. Thirdly, we look at how the speculative event architecturing-with all creatures was defined. Next, we examine how it was performed with children living in Colombia and Australia. Finally, the last sections present the finding and outcomes, together with the initial ideas for the pedagogical tool.

Framing the Speculative research-creation event: thinking Across Species, Across Spatial Scales, and Across Shores

The speculative research-creation event is framed with three non-anthropocentric concepts, that emerged from a reflection on Peñaloza Caicedo’s practices of architecture and architecture education with children and youths: across species, across spatial scales, and across shores. The reflection is part of this speculative research-creation study. The concepts are an invitation to re-conceptualize the practice of children’s architecture education, for children to think differently about the environment, to build with the world they are part of.

Reflecting on Peñaloza Caicedo’s practices, we have learnt that architects and educators commonly have a human-centric approach. As an architect, she, too, participated in the design-construction of museum installations, a maritime terminal for passengers, and a library renovation project, all of these projects that privilege the comfort of human citizens. However, shouldn’t architecture address the comfort of all earthly beings, and recognize all earthly creatures as citizens of the world? As an educator, she undertook research in Colombia to define pedagogical parameters for the practice of children’s architecture education, according to children’s perceptions of space, from the body to the universe. Although drawings, three-dimensional constructions, city walks and observations exposed children’s connections with the environment, children were mostly placed at the centre of their experiences as self-centered-active-learners. Did local and global environments become passive places for the children’s learning activities? Shouldn’t the learning experience be a mutual process between the child and the environment in all spatial scales? A process in which the child recognizes the local or global environment as active, with the agency of all the earthly creatures within it? A mutual experience in which children and environment are actively transforming each other? Peñaloza Caicedo’s experience of working with national and international groups, has expanded her views about architectures that have dissolved boundaries between these territories, although those architectures are focused mainly on humans’ well-being. Shouldn’t architecture and education dissolve borderland barriers between all species’ territories? In the search for social an ecological justice on Earth, specifically within the practice of children’s architecture education addressing environmental education, based on this reflection, we argue that architects and educators have the ethico-political responsibility to integrate human and other-than-humans’ agency and forces within this practice.

In view of the above reflection and with those questions in mind, three non-anthropocentric concepts emerge as provocations to create experiments that allowed children to think across species, to think across spatial scales, and to think across shores throughout the experience of making space-architecture. This, for children to develop the ability to make equitable decisions with the environment, for an ethico-political milieu:

  • i) Across Species: for children to think-build spaces with other-than-human and human forces that co-exist on Earth, for children to acknowledge the agency of all human and other-than-human creatures;

  • ii) Across Spatial Scales: for children to think-build spaces with the body to the universe, for children to recognize that any decision made with their bodies has an impact on their house, neighbourhood, city, country, planet or universe, and conversely.

  • iii) Across Shores: for children to think-build spaces with children and other creatures living across different countries, for children to be aware of the significance of dissolving boundaries or borderlands within the environment.

Thinking-with the previous three concepts the pedagogical tool for the practice of children’s architecture education can lead children to think and to build with the environment as mutual active forces, as dynamic intertwined worlds. Therefore, children can build a healthy environment while acknowledging the agency of all earthly creatures. To nurture environmental health, the posthuman, feminist and new materialist approaches of Stacy Alaimo suggest that understanding the environment as the “world of all fleshy beings with their own, needs, claims, and actions”3 (2010, 2), and adopting clear actions that involve humans and non-humans in our practice leads to an ethical environment. Thus, the above reflection on architectural-educational practices and the three concepts are also grounded on these non-human-centric views. As such, the cross-species, cross-spatial scales and cross-shores concepts frame this research and the speculative research-creation event in order to nurture more-than-human environmental health.


Speculative Thinking and Methodology for equitable futures

This speculative research-creation project adopts speculative thinking and speculative methodology. It adopts them, first, because speculative thinking has influenced posthuman, feminist, and new materialist theories as non-anthropocentric views attuned to the agency of all matter (Manning 2016, Manning and Massumi 2014). Posthuman theories recognise that all bodies (humans, other-than-humans and the material environment) have the ability to act (Barad 2007). This ability to act, known as agency, emerges within the transversal relationships with material bodies. Transversal interrelationality, which is defined as intra-action (idem), between multiple bodies, with indistinct boundaries are always affecting or being affected by each other, in an interdependent and mutual relationship as a condition for their existence (Barad 2007, 52). Specifically in architecture, we suggest that spaces emerge within the relations of multiple bodies or matter, materials. Materials are activated and transformed within their melting processes to adjust existing spaces or create new ones. Sand, cement, hydrated lime, mixed together turn into mortar, and together with clay can be shaped into bricks that then become a wall. Each material has its own agency for a brick wall to emerge. This is attuned with the speculative and feminist views that we all make-with one another (Haraway 2016, Alaimo 2016), humans and other-than-humans exist within the collaboration of their diverse material agencies. Therefore, to make spaces considering that others beside humans have agency, dissolves boundaries between species, spatial scales, and shores, and invites humans to think, make, affect, and become-with all Earthly creatures. Second, because speculative methodology is aligned with the agency of all matter, it acknowledges the agency of data within the research (Truman 2017). Hence, it invites to think-with data as active participants, when data becoming active in events or creative experiments. We are interested in creative events; in which relations, actions, and affects between humans and other-than-humans generate new thoughts, knowledge, and practices to emerge (Manning 2016). Third, because as Manning and Massumi (2014) propose, research-creation practices generate concepts-in-the-making. We are interested in creative events that link art, architecture, theory, and research for new concepts to arise. Fourth, because speculative methodologies invite cross-disciplinary participation in research, and we are interested in combining architectural and educational practices within this study. Finally, because speculative methodology proposes diffraction as a practical tool to produce interferences and differences (Barad 2007), to enter to the future differently. More than the mere extension of the present (Wilkie, Savransky and Rosengarten 2017), how to cultivate in the present, a future that seems to be impossible.

In view of these points, this speculative research-creation project proposes a speculative research-creation event (fieldwork) to be performed with children and other earthly creatures, for the ethico-political pedagogical tool to emerge.

Background of a Speculative Research-Creation Event: from Sympoietic Architecturing to Architecturing-with all Creatures

Thinking-with speculative, feminist, and process philosophies, and thinking-with the reflection on architectural and educational practices, the speculative research-creation event is defined as Sympoietic Architecturing or Architecturing-with all Creatures. The speculative feminist Donna Haraway claims that for Earth recuperation is required a “sympoietic” thinking and action, as a “world-with, in company,” to “make-with” all critters (microbes, plants, animals, humans and non-humans, and sometimes even machines4) in unexpected mutual collaborations, to think about rehabilitating Earth or making it liveable again (2016, 58). Sym meaning with, and poiesis meaning making. Additionally, the poststructuralist feminist philosophy of Elizabeth Grosz (2008) posits that architecture is the art of linking the human and non-human cosmic forces (birdsongs, insect olfactory dances, vertebrates, and even human performative display) to create territories that frame or organize the space of the Earth.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari proposed that territories and spaces emerge within the relations between species in processes of non-human becomings. Deleuze and Guattari claim “every territory encompasses or cuts the territories of other species, or intercepts the trajectories of animals without territories, forming interspecies junction points […] forming compounds and blocs of sensations and determining becomings”5 (1994, 185)6. Peñaloza Caicedo’s reflection on her architectural-educational practices discusses the architecture’s responsibility to integrate the flows of human and other-than-human’s forces that coexist on Earth; from the body to the universe, and from local to global. Others besides humans, like expanded steel meshes, plaster board panels, laminated glass panels, polycarbonate sheets, gravel stones, sand, soil, or water become in space (beings of sensations) when their cross-species and cross-scales trajectories are intercepted. So, making architecture is the action to comprehend the trajectories of all creatural materials, for all matter to become beings of sensations: space. Comprehending how humans and other-than-humans (creatural materials) change, flow or activate each other, it allows rhythm, tone, coloring, weight, or texture (sensations) to extended in time for space to emerge. Then, architecture is perceived as the action of making cross-species spaces, as active beings, rather than static objects. The compounds of creatural materials are in constant relation and change, or becomings, for spaces to emerge: architecturing.

Thus, the speculative research-creation event was defined by merging the words Sympoietic and Architecturing. In the same way as architects must design-with and build-with human and other-than-human creatural materials; making-with all critters, making-with all matter, Sympoietic Architecturing is summarised for children as Architecturing-with all Creatures. The term blends theories, architecture-education practices, and research for human and other-than-human beings think, make, become, affect-with, and between each. A speculative research-creation event or experiment in which children from different territories perceived architecture as an action, to make kin with human and other-than-human cosmic forces, to make cross-species, cross-spatial scales, and cross-shores architectures.

Performing a speculative research-creation event: Architecturing-with all creatures

Architecturing-with all creatures was a five-week speculative research-creation event involving five, 8-10-year-old children living in Australia; five, 8-10-years-old children living in Colombia; other Earthly creatures, and Peñaloza Caicedo. All participants connected remotely for nine events to experiment together. The speculative event enabled children, materials, bodies and creatures to explore their surroundings and to make architecture with human and other-than-human cosmic forces and creatures to co-inhabit. The following, are the general aims of architecturing-with all creatures:

  • i) Across Species: to build spaces-architecture for different species to live together.

  • ii) Across Spatial Scales: to build bodies, houses, landscapes, and universes.

  • iii) Across Shores: to build with children from different territories.

For this speculative research-creation event, children thought across species in each one of the spatial scales. They made kin with creatures from all kingdoms:

  • i) Animal Kingdom: a vertebrate or invertebrate animal.

  • ii) Vegetable Kingdom: a tree, flower, or plant.

  • iii) Microorganism Kingdom: a bacteria, archaea, microbe, fungi, or virus.

  • iv) Mineral Kingdom: a quartz, lime, or salt.

  • v) Machine Kingdom: an apparatus, a digital device, or a robot.

Children living in five different Colombian cities, children living in four different Melbournian suburbs, creatural materials living in both countries, and Peñaloza Caicedo living in Melbourne connected separately for eight events, four events for each group. Also, they all connected in one (second-last) event to share what they had previously built together. A speculative cross-shores event occurred together-with the fifteen-hour, seventeen-thousand kilometer and language differences, and it was performed in two main occurrences: five speculative exploratory moments and five speculative building moments. After presenting the general aspects of architecturing-with all creatures in this first section of methods, the following section exposes how the two main occurrences were performed.

Speculative exploratory moments: exploring-with creatural tools

Each Speculative Exploratory Moment occurred —previously to each one of the speculative building moments, asynchronously and individually— for children to explore-with creatural tools, and to collect recycled and organic materials, in order to sense, select and collect matter. Some materials were suggested by Peñaloza Caicedo (the researcher), and some materials were the children’s initiative. For exploratory moments to occur, the researcher sent a basic exploratory kit to the ten children living in Colombia and Australia, who accepted to participate in the research. The exploratory kit invited children to carefully listen, observe, magnify, light, cut, measure, and draw with different exploratory creatural tools (Figure 1). These were thinking and action experiences that children performed to explore the world around them, recognize the agency of exploratory tools, and become active participants in the selection of creatural materials, rather than the researcher or pedagogue exploring and selecting for them. “I know how the light can hide me” said a child while playing with torch lights and creating hiding moments behind the computer’s camera. This child, recognized the agency of the torch and the light to create a hiding sensation, a hiding space. “I have enjoyed building with many things around us, and I especially liked to collect plastic containers at home,” said another child. This child, identified how our surroundings provide opportunities to find materials to build with. Additionally, a poncho with pockets, sent in the exploratory kit became an activator to extend the children’s relations with matter: from traditional ways of protecting human bodies from cold weather in south-American Andes mountains, to relations to collect with matter and within it (Figure 2). Children were free to decide what to use and what not to use from the exploratory kit. That is, they individually explored to find, choose and collect materials in their home and in their surroundings.

This exploratory method involved children and other creatures in the collection of materials. It invited the children to explore, discover, observe and sense the materials to build-with. This helped the children to recognize the agency of all matter, for children to start building fantastic and unexpected relationships with stranger-different materials they may or may not be familiar with. Children played-with the exploratory tools even during speculative building moments, recognizing the agency of these exploratory tools: a child played-with a torch light to hide behind the computer camera hole, another child played-with the cone that emanates water or air sound. Speculative Exploratory Moments and exploratory creatural tools opened the children’s senses in terms of the environment to build-with it.

Figure 1.

Exploring-with Creatural Tools. Drawings were made by Peñaloza Caicedo. Pictures were screenshots from the videos recorded with the Zoom platform during the remote connection.

Figure 2.

Collecting-with a poncho. Pictures taken by Peñaloza Caicedo.


Together with the exploratory kit, children also received a building kit that included elements to be assembled and disassembled. The kit also included yarn, string, rope, masking tape, and wooden pins (Figure 3) as invitations for children to build architectures that can be put together and pulled apart. Again, children were given the opportunity to add and to collect their own materials and ideas. A child assembled masking tape, string, and toilet paper rolls to build a snow leopard with human face (Figure 6), which she totally disassembled at the end of the Speculative Building Moment. She re-used all the pieces for the next event. Architectures that are active, rather than static.

Figure 3.

Building-with assembling and disassembling matter. Drawings were made by Peñaloza Caicedo. Picture of the box taken by Peñaloza Caicedo.


Speculative building moments: thinking and building with living inquiries

Each one of the speculative building moments were connected with the previous one, as ongoing experiments or living inquiries. Speculative building moments were occurrences whereby children and Peñaloza Caicedo met —synchronously, remotely, and collectively— to think-with and to build-with four living inquiries. These living inquiries led children to make space-architecture while thinking-with the relational forces of matter, and matter or materials transformed without the children-human intervention. The living inquiries proposed for children to explore were: Germination, Crystallization, Molding, and Fermentation.

Living inquiries emerged, first, from exploring the techniques and materials becoming-with and within Peñaloza Caicedo’s architectural and educational practices; second, finding commonalities, intersections, or areas of interest within these techniques and materials; and third, translating them into organic transformations that could provoke children to think and to make space architecture differently. These organic transformations occurring without the children-human action were experiments-with materials that are activated and transformed by other creatural materials; thus, materials become-with and within the melting process with other materials to create spaces. “Soil and water are the shelter for the seed I planted. And, yarn and sticks are the materials that shelter the snow leopard with a human face,” a child said. This child found the commonality between the water-soil and the yarn-stick assemblages that have the agency to provide shelter, to provide spaces of comfort for the plant and the animal to grow or to live.

The living experiments invited children to sense the forces of the universe, to cultivate “response-ability” (Haraway 2016), ability to respond. These living experiments expanded the practice of children’s architecture education, because by the living material techniques children envisioned and translated into the future differently, via emphases on more-than-human perspectives. The living inquiries allowed children to recognize the agency of matter and moved their thoughts and actions to build cross-species and cross-spatial scales architectures. This will be presented in the following five sections: germination to build co-inhabiting bodies, crystallization to build shared houses, molding to build cooperative landscapes, fermentation to build harmonious universes, and spheres to build a new planet.

Thinking-with Germination: to build co-inhabiting bodies (week 1)

Thinking-with seeds for germination, children explored the growing forces of seeds, to track plants’ growing patterns, and how these co-inhabit space. Children grew-with seeds for five weeks. They sensed, observed, and drew the seeds becoming-with water, cotton, soil, and glass jars into bean plants (Figure 4). “I gave my plant too much water and it didn’t grow, my brother put too little and it didn’t grow either,” said a child. “This piece of plaster is too heavy on this side of my planet, so it won’t stand, I need to put something on the other side for it to balance”, she added. “In the end, I think that is what architecture is about, it is about balance,” she concluded while making connections between materials, quantities, and a sense of balance to create a planetary space. Children perceived that water is vital in precise amounts for plants to grow, that cotton can protect the seed while it sprouts roots, and that soil is indispensable for roots, stem, and foliage to grow. Thinking-with germination, a child made-with dry seeds and little sticks an amoeba with human hair (Figure 5), that later co-inhabits a human stomach (Figure 8). Children recognized seeds as radiating materials of first origin, sharing their interior and exterior with other creatures, for creating new creatures, a second origin. Another child made-with toilet paper rolls, wooden pins, and cotton strings a snow leopard with a human face (Figure 6). Children noticed how seeds are minuscule beings, which share their interior space with imperceptible particles, which then turn into sprout roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and even new seeds. Animal and human species co-inhabiting or sharing the same body is a playful fictional speculation, that led children to dissolve species bodies’ boundaries. A fictional re-beginning for an Earth without borders between bodies, architectures, and kingdoms.

Figure 4.

Thinking-with the growing forces of seeds: chickpeas and red kidney beans growing-with us. Four left pictures were sent by parents and children using social media channels after the remote connections. Four right pictures were taken by Peñaloza Caicedo.

Figure 5.

Architecturing-with seeds an amoeba with human hair, in a borderless planet


Left and right pictures were screenshots from the videos recorded with the Zoom platform, during the remote connection. Middle picture was sent by the child using a social media channel, after the remote connection.

Figure 6.

Co-inhabiting bodies: snow leopard with a human face. Pictures were screenshots from the videos recorded with the Zoom platform, during the remote connection.


Thinking-with Crystallization: to build shared houses (week 2)

Thinking-with salt for crystallization, children experimented-with the relational forces of salt as a mineral, to discover points or areas of interest in growing crystals, and to build vibrant houses for different species to live in. Children grew-with crystals for two weeks. Children experimented-with grains of salt becoming-with hot water and food coloring into solid, transparent, and fragile crystal surfaces; in glass jars that were put on the fridge for one or two weeks (Figure 7). They realized that crystals emerged while minerals, vegetables, (food coloring) and water as different creatures shared the same space, a shared house. “Crystals are the house where salt and hot water live together on a jar on the fridge. These toilet paper rolls and this perforated carboard live together to be the house of the flower. These can be our houses with walls that protect the flowers from the wind and roof that provides light to the flower” said a child (Figure 14). Then, thinking and building-with crystallization invited children to dissolve boundaries of individuality and territory. It invited them to re-think traditional inhabiting modes: my body, my house, my country, my territory, into our bodies, our houses, our shared planet Earth.

Figure 7.

Thinking-with the relational forces of salt, mineral. Pictures were sent by parents and children using social media channels, after the remote connection.


Children speculated-with a snow leopard, an amoeba, and humans —as different Earthly species— to share the same house. A child built-with tree branches, yarn, and cotton string the shelter for a human-faced snow leopard. While another child built-with seeds, a folded paper bag, and masking tape the stomach-house for an amoeba with human hair (Figure 8). Children, other creatures, and materials re-connected to disclose a common cause: to have the ability to share the same architectures or spaces within Earthly creatures’ differences.

Figure 8.

Shared houses: shelter for leopard-human and house for amoeba-human-stomach. Pictures were sent by parents and children using social media channels after the remote connection.


Thinking-with Molding: to build cooperative landscapes (week 3)

Thinking-with clay and plaster for molding, children experimented-with the forces of mineral powders, to come across intersections between pulverized materials growing into diverse shapes, as provocations for children to build collective landscapes for the community of species. Children played-with clay, plaster, molds, and water for different shapes, sizes, and colorful creatures to emerge. Even seeds came to participate to create a new landscape embedded within an eggshell ( Figure 9). First, children realized how water —and its precise quantity— is needed to activate or deactivate the force of clay and plaster to become into new molded beings. Too much or too little, and these powders will not become moldable mixtures. Second, children recognized the molds’ capacity to create new shapes once clay or plaster are poured on them; but also, the clay and plaster’s agency extended in time to take the shape of other creatures embedded on them. “I waited too long and the plaster is already dried, I couldn’t print my hand, seeds, neither leaves on it. Can I make it again?” said a child when her molding plaster experiment failed (Figure 10). And third, children played with the mold’s materiality to keep the new molded beings embedded on them (rough) or to make them free (smooth). As such, children perceived how water and molds worked in cooperation with clay and plaster to create new collective spaces.

Figure 9.

Thinking-with the forces of clay and plaster powders. Pictures were sent by parents and children using social media channels, after the remote connection.


A child built-with water, molds and plaster some colorful hearts, and built-with water, their hands and clay a mountain; this is a mountain-hearted cooperative landscape for a tree which is the house of a computer to live in (Figure 10). Thinking and building across spatial scales, the same child had previously built-with branches, leaves, and rope the tree house (week two); and built-with seeds, yarn, a plastic glass, and a box the computer (week one). All these material creatures created a landscape in which water, molds, clay, and plaster play the essential cooperative role to give shape to it. Thus, molding invited children to think and to build-with clay, plaster, molds, and water as materials that dissolve the boundaries of matter turning them into cooperative and colorful territories.

Figure 10.

A cooperative mountain-heart landscape for the tree house where a computer lives. Pictures were sent by parents and children using social media channels, after the remote connection.


Thinking-with Fermentation: to build harmonious universes (week 4)

Thinking-with cheese, eggshells, and seashells for fermentation, children experimented-with bacteria growing in cheese and with eggshells and seashells growing in sand, to find commonalities across ecological systems, and to build universal spaces generated with and for different species co-evolving in harmony. Children explored how cheese, eggshells, seashells, and sand blended-with air and water become harmonious landscapes (Figure 11). First, children sensed and smelled how bacteria grew in cheese pieces that were exposed —on a window sill for a week— to natural light and air. Children realized how microorganism like bacteria colonies co-evolve with cheese as another form of life, and turn it into a fermented harmonious creature and space. Second, children experimented-with the breakability force of eggshells or seashells that leads to the possibility to make building blocks once incorporated-with sand. The children were again aware of how water is required in precise amounts for matter to incorporate properly, to grow. Too much or too little and shells and sand will not become a malleable blend. Mixing microorganisms and minerals to create new fermented worlds, opened children’s sensitivity to different species co-inhabiting in equilibrium.

Figure 11.

Thinking-with the spreading forces of bacteria, as eggshells, and seashells expanded in and with the sand. Pictures were sent by parents and children using social media channels, after the remote connection.


A child built-with eggshells, seashells, and minuscule particles of sand a universe with three quadrangular planets. One of the planets was built to locate the house of a flower (Figure 12). The child had previously built-with toilet paper rolls a wall-layer that protects the flower from the wind, and had built-with a perforated surface a roof-layer that provides light for the flower to grow. Similar to these layering actions intended for the comfort of all creatures, fermentation as living inquiry encourages children to blend different materials that can co-inhabit and co-evolve to build three-dimensional layers of matter, which can constitute harmonious universes.

Figure 12.

A harmonious three-planets universe, on which the perforated-roof house of a flower is settled. Pictures were sent by parents and children using social media channels, after the remote connection.


Thinking-with Spheres: to build a new planet (week 5)

Thinking-with spheres (Figure 13), children built new terrestrial globes for all their creatures to live together. Children received-with the exploratory-building kit a spherical Earth with all planetary divisions, and a wooden sphere. Thinking-with spheres invited children to speculate-with the existing planet Earth, and to build-with the wooden sphere and all the creatures and spaces that emerged during the previous four weeks, the new planet Earth they dream of. Children included in the construction of their planets most of the creatures built by the ten children living in Colombia and Australia. This was possible, due to the fourth event (Thinking-with Fermentation) in which all children connected to share what they had built in the previous three events.

Figure 13.

Thinking-with spheres to imagine a borderland planet. Picture was taken by Peñaloza Caicedo.


To create one of the new planets a child included: a dome made-with eggshell and plaster which is the house for all the electronic devices to be protected, a human made-with plaster who has a stomach-house for the amoeba to live in, a mountain made-with clay for the snow leopard and the antivirus to live in, and oceans made-with string for a humpback whale to swim freely all the way around the planet (Figure 14). Another child built a new planet dynamically scattering colorful yarn clouds —around the sphere— that rained affection on the family we are: “I have learnt that we are, all, a family on the planet,” said the child (Figure 15). Machine, microorganism, vegetable, animal, and human kingdoms are co-inhabiting, sharing, cooperating, and living in harmony on these new planets built-with children and other Earthly creatures.

Figure 14.

A new terrestrial globe with computers, humans, amoebas and humpback whales co-inhabiting. Pictures is a screenshot from the video that the child made and sent by a social media channel, after the remote connection.

Figure 15.

Yarn clouds, for the one family that we all are to live on the planet Earth. Picture was sent by the parent and the child using a social media channel, after the remote connection.


Children speculating with living inquiries were able to think-with seeds, salt, clay, plaster, and cheese, as materials involved within the living inquiries, and then to build bodies, houses, landscapes, and universes. Across spatial scales, architectures in which children built with different species to share doors, houses, shelters, domes or caves. Architectures without self-defined spatial or temporal boundaries between creatures. Children were able to de-center the human in the creation of the space: following the behavior of matter and imagining how different species can live together in the same space.

Conclusions. An ethico-political pedagogical tool: social and ecological justice on the environment

The interweaving of the reflection on architectural-educational practices, the non-anthropocentric views (posthuman, new materialism, feminist, and process theories), and the children’s speculative research-creations (speculative thinking and methodology), made it possible to define initial ideas for an ethico-political pedagogical tool for the practice of children’s architecture education.

Architecturing-with all creatures as the conceptual and practical approach for the pedagogical tool positioned children and all other Earthly creatures as active participants in architecturing-with living experiments. “I have learnt that all things can change, and that they can change together,” said a child in the last event. Thinking-with materials as active creatures made it possible for children to acknowledge the agency of all species, and to make-with them in unexpected collaborations. As proposed, we all make with one another (Haraway 2016). “This new planet will have a big door, for all creatures to come in and out the planet” said the child when explaining her new idea for a planet to the rest of the children (Figure 16). “This launching-landing base is the house for the spaceship, other machines and humans to live in,” said the same child who built a spaceship with dry seeds and colorful yarns that —as he told us— show the movement of the ship (Figure 17). These children made impossible futures perceptible and experimented with them, as Wilkie, Savransky and Rosengarten (2017) suggest, for speculation. Hence, the Colombian and Australian children’s speculative architectures are responses to/for/with/within all Others, human and other-than-humans, for environmental health (Alaimo 2010) on the planet Earth.

Figure 16.

A new terrestrial globe with a massive door, shared by all Earthly creatures


Pictures is a screenshot from the video that the child made and sent by a social media channel, after the remote connection.

Figure 17.

Spaceship and spaceport for the machine and human kingdoms. Picture were sent by the parent and the child using a social media channel, after the remote connection.


The pedagogical tool proposes to build cross-species, cross-scales, and cross-shores architectures: children’s explorations with exploratory tools, children’s collections with organic and recyclable materials, children speculating with living inquiries, and children from different territories building architectures for different species to live in together from the body to the universe. First, children’s explorations as acts of gathering and preparing materials, for children and other creatures to be active explorers collecting the materials and objects to build-with. For children to participate from the spring of the speculative building experience. Second, living inquiries, for children to build while playing, exploring, and observing how matter change independently from or without human intervention. Other living inquiries are expected to be added, as well as spatial scales, in order to expand the recognition of the agency of all matter. Third, speculation, for children to tell stories differently, science fiction stories intended to craft and recraft the world (Haraway 2016). Fictional spaces that seem to be science fiction today, but that open our imagination to an equitable Earth in the future. Thus, architecturing-with all creatures is a speculative provocation for the practice of children’s architecture education, for an ethico-political environment. A speculative pedagogical tool intended to respond to the need to de-center the position of humans in the world, and to recognize the agency of all matter, for a healthy environment.



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[*] This article is part of a PhD research project titled “When Creatures Build Together: speculating with Colombian and Australian children and other Earthly creatures for an ethico-political environmental education.” RMIT University (Melbourne) is the institution involved in the research, and is financing the researcher. The project started in 2018, and is expected to be finished in 2023.

[1] Quote original in English.

[2] Quote original in English.

[3] Quote original in English.

[4] Within posthumanist, feminist and materialist perspectives machines are not reduced to tools, or they are not considered as separate from humans, but as hybrids of machines and organisms. This approach is taken from the Haraway (1985) Cyborg Manifesto.

[5] Quote original in English.

[6] These compounds or bloc of sensations, blocs of percept and affect, are beings of sensations that are constituted by three elements: the flesh becoming animal or plant, the house element, and the universe element (Deleuze and Guattari 1994,178,179,180).