We’ve built you a better ArchDaily. Learn more and let us know what you think. Send us your feedback »

Stocking the City: A new ArchDaily series

Chris DeHenzel is one of 2012 lucky recipients of a John K. Branner traveling fellowship, awarded by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Architecture. Throughout the year, Chris will be visiting more than 25 cities in 5 continents to research on alternatives to our resource-intensive industrial food system, represented at retail level by the corporate supermarket. ¿How could an alternative system of physical markets support an alternative food system? Chris will dispatch for ArchDaily from Latvia to Calcuta, in this new series about how to design better ways to sustainable stock hungry global cities. If you want to join him, you are welcome. Read Chris first dispatch after the break

UC Berkeley professor, and godfather of food writers, Michael Pollan, wrote in The Omnivore’s Dilemma:

Work AC’s 2008 Public Farm (PF1) project at PS1 in Queens (and following book, titled Above the Pavement, The Farm) was phenomenal in its combined scope, both inventively engineered and socially aware.  Meredith TenHoor wrote an essay for the book titled “The Architect’s Farm”, which (along with Nicola Twilley’s “Edible Geography” blog and Carolyn Steel’s book, Hungry City) has substantially inspired my thesis. TenHoor argues that a paradigm of opposing conditions prevail in the discussion of urban agriculture: on one side a distributed, networked, activist-led, communal “horizontal” organic garden and an industrial, high-tech, iconic, vertical farm.  She suggests that the Work AC project at PS1 may be neither traditionally horizontal or vertical, but “oblique”.  She writes: “Unlike massive, high-tech vertical farms, PF1 seems to point out that urban space can also support small-scale farms that generate communities around the production of food”. (5) Pie in the Sky Nevertheless, vertical farm projects are all the rage, and heavily promoted by Columbia University Professor of Microbiology, Dickson Despommier, in his book, The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century. According to Despommier, “High tech greenhouse farming is already being deployed in many places around the world, most notably in New Zealand, the Netherlands, Germany, England, Australia, Canada and the United States. … The only missing element is the urbanization of the concept.”(6)

There is a utopian zeal to the book, that, while well intentioned, neglects so many issues that it would require a whole other book to dispute it.  A 2010 article in The Economist attempts to answer one rather practical question, “Would it really work?”(7)  The embodied energy of food production is a complex issue that remains contested, and there may also be no significant advantage to locating a vertical farm in a central business district compared to a less densely built area of the city.  But beyond the logistical and economic problems, the social implications of productive urban towers seem unfortunately modernist. Despommier’s proposal also relies heavily on the assumption that transportation accounts for the majority of industrial agriculture’s ecological impact, although a May 2010 report by the USDA report, titled “Local Food Systems”, suggests otherwise.  According to the report, “Comparisons of local food systems to food sourced from mainstream retailers found no significant differences in transportation energy use, except for those products transported by air. The shorter distance traveled in local markets was offset by the greater transportation efficiency of the mainstream system, which lowered energy use per unit transported.”(8) Although production is a significant  component in food systems, different modes of production relate to entirely different economies of scale, processing and distribution.  In my opinion, the “designer obsession” with production has neglected a close scrutiny of distribution models. The question should not just be, “How do we integrate production in cities?” But also, “How do we reorganize infrastructural systems (especially distribution models) to support more alternative forms of production?” In the next few posts, I will further outline the ideas of the project, and catch you up on what I’ve been doing since January.  I look forward to receiving thoughtful comments and criticisms, and if you’re living in a city on my route, I would be thrilled to meet for a drink, or lunch at your local market.  In the mean time, I hope you’ll follow along online through the year, and don’t be afraid to get involved! I am currently writing from Buenos Aires, Argentina.  My itinerary (subject to change) is as follows: (May – July) Rabat, Fez, Granada, Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid, Santiago de Compostela (July-September) Avignon, Paris, Copenhagen, Latvia, Budapest, Venice, Florence (September – October) New York, Philly, DC, Cleveland, Seattle, LA (October – December) Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Istanbul, Koudougou (Burkina Faso), About Chris DeHenzel

© Andreas Gursky
© Andreas Gursky

I am currently an M.Arch/MLA dual degree student at University of California, Berkeley, and a recipient of one (of three) John K. Branner fellowships awarded each year by the UC Berkeley School of Architecture, which gives me the opportunity to travel for a year doing research for my graduate thesis.  The project is a concoction of many interests: design, urban systems, infrastructure, and food.  My questions are not new, but I am trying to look at them a bit differently from much of what is published.  Not that I know exactly what I’m doing, because I wouldn’t be here, but my scope is focused, even if the possibilities are limitless… I graduated from the University of Virginia with a BS in Architecture in 2004, and worked in Washington DC and Copenhagen before moving to California in 2009. Citations (1) Raj Patel. Stuffed and Starved, 2008 (2) http://www.bizjournals.com/eastbay/stories/2003/06/30/daily10.html (3) Michael Pollan. The Omnivore’s Dilemma. p.259 (4) Pierre Belanger.  Interview with Jennifer Leonard. http://www.recodemagazine.com/interviews/pierre-belanger (5) Meredith Tenhoor. “The Architect’s Farm” in Above the Pavement – The Farm! Architecture and Agriculture at P.F.1. Amale Andraos and Dan Woods, eds. Princeton Architectural Press, 2010. p.188 (6) Dickson Despommier, The Vertical Farm. St. Martin’s Press, 2010. p.129 (7) http://www.economist.com/node/17647627 (8) Steve Martinez, et al. “Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues”, ERR 97, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, May 2010. p.48

Work AC public farm © WorkAC
Work AC public farm © WorkAC

© Atelier Soa Architects
© Atelier Soa Architects

Cite:Chris DeHenzel. "Stocking the City: A new ArchDaily series" 01 May 2012. ArchDaily. Accesed . <http://www.archdaily.com/230708/stocking-the-city-a-new-archdaily-series/>