Alexander Holland

Alexander Holland with a Tensegrity Structure

Alexander Holland with a tensegrity structure

Alexander Holland is a PhD candidate the University of Melbourne. He studies characteristics of past and future environments. Alexander’s work focuses on the political and practical implications of declining habitat structures. His research combines methods from conservation ecology, computer science and digital design to include nonhuman as well as human stakeholders. Alexander has won several awards and disseminated his findings in leading scientific, artistic, and architectural venues.

Alexander is currently collaborating with researchers from the Fenner School of Ecology at the Australian National University and investigates ways to address the problem of disappearing large old trees – the biggest and most long-lived organisms on earth.

Thesis Topic

Simulation of Bird Vision

A simulation of bird vision

Designing with Nonhumans


  • Stanislav Roudavski, The University of Melbourne, Senior Lecturer, More-than-Human Design
  • Phillip Gibbons, Australian National University, Professor, Ecology
  • Jason Thompson, The University of Melbourne, Associate Professor, Urban Design, Transportation, and Health

This thesis seeks to expand the notion of design to include nonhuman lifeforms as empowered contributors. It argues that designing with rather than for nonhuman beings such as birds and trees is necessary in the era where human-centred approaches fail to address the environmental crises. To explore the conceptual and practical circumstances of inclusive designing, this thesis constructs an argument of three parts. The first part defines design. Biological studies show that many organisms design their own environments. This background leads this thesis to a pragmatic, outcome-oriented definition of design as a more-than-human, shared ability to invent new forms of living.

Having understood design as more-than-human, this thesis then demonstrates the need to consider nonhumans as political agents. Nonhuman beings engage in political speech when they resist, abstain, and modify their behaviour. Acknowledging this capability, this thesis reframes agency as relational, distributed, and communal.

Nonhuman beings have capabilities that make some forms of participation more feasible than others. Often, they lack the powers to plan for their futures because the anthropocentric frameworks within which they live do not value their contributions. In response, part three amplifies participatory methods with computational techniques including artificial intelligence and simulation.

Necessary, this topic engages with the evidence from multiple disciplines to show that concepts such as politics, language, justice, and democracy can benefit from the inclusion of nonhuman agents. Recent research in sensory ecologies, biosemiotics, embodied cognition, nonhuman behaviour and learning in combination with ecocentric analysis of ecological justice provide an opportunity to contribute. This thesis responds to such research by amplifying these frameworks with techniques of design computing. The main research question of this thesis is:

How can humans design with nonhumans?

A possible response, or the hypothesis, of this thesis is that:

Humans and nonhumans can design together using data-driven methods. The product of this design can create more equitable collectives and help their members live better lives.

Current more-than-human approaches lack established research methods. To investigate its hypothesis, this thesis uses design experiments to construct conceptual explorations that combine technical implementations with imaginative possibilities. These experiments engage with real-world places, communities, and stakeholders. Examples include tools that quantify contributions by birds, trees, and others making them available as guidance in practical projects.


Holland, Alexander, and Stanislav Roudavski. "Design Tools and Complexity: Mobile Games and Collective Imagination." In Proceedigns of the 34th International Conference on Research in Computer Aided Architectural Design in Europe: (ECAADe): Complexity and Simplicity, edited by Aulikki Hermeoia, Toni Österlund, and Piia Markkanen, 2:555–4. Brussels: eCAADe, University of Oulu, 2016.

Holland, Alexander, and Stanislav Roudavski. "Mobile Gaming for Agonistic Design." In Fifty Years Later: Revisiting the Role of Architectural Science in Design and Practice: The 50th International Conference of the Architectural Science Association, edited by Jian Zuo, Lyrian Daniel, and Veronica Soebarto, 299–08. Adelaide: Architectural Science Association, The University of Adelaide, 2016.

Holland, Alexander, and Stanislav Roudavski. "PocketPedal: Beyond Disciplines with Mobile Games." Inflection 3, no. November (2016): 68–5.

Mirra, Gabriele, Alexander Holland, Stanislav Roudavski, Jasper Wijnands, and Alberto Pugnale. "An AI Agent That Synthesises Visual Abstractions of Natural Forms to Support the Design of Human-Made Habitat Structures." Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2022.


Bharat Dave Scholar, For Research into Design Innovation for Novel Approaches, Processes, Tools or Materials, University of Melbourne, 2022.

State Award Winner: Visualising City Changes with AR/VR,” 2017. For GovHack Victoria, 2018.

Platinum Award. For Hex Kite Prototype Produced by Wind Architecture Studio, A’Design Awards, 2017.

Best Presentation Award, Second Place, The 50th International Conference of the Architectural Science Association, 2016.

Ivan Petrovic Award. For Best Presentation by a Young Researcher, 34th International Conference on Research in Computer Aided Architectural Design in Europe: (ECAADe), 2016.