When we consider something edible, we understand its capacity to be eaten, consumed, or ingested independently of its taste. If our contemporary relationship to the built environment reflected this process, what would cities and constructed environments become?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of ‘where our food comes from’ became eminently important. The fragility of our production processes and the mobility networks that transport commodities and food, urge new forms of localization and the design of circular economies. EDIBLE approaches food both literally and metaphorically.
On the one hand, via food we explore architectural strategies of local production and self-sufficiency, like urban agriculture and renewable energy. On the other, we analyze the by-products of urban life -namely livestock, agriculture, and forest residues as resources; in ways that limit material loss and explore alternative pathways. The material and existential entanglements between architecture and food surface in different scales: from the gut of our bodies to the ecology of territories and the technology of building systems. They bring together the farm, the city, environmental inequality, and the stomach.
Currently, the global food system—from the overgrowth of chickens to the entirety of the agri-food industry—is the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases. As the need for food continues to grow in response to increasing urbanization, the alienation between people and their provision sources also grows. We continue to produce and consume our edibles by reinforcing carbon dependency, often unaware of the links between the sourcing, production and distribution of food, and the ways in which we consume it. In many ways, we are estranged from the journey of the edible arriving to our table.
Envisioning an architecture that produces resources, digests its waste and decomposes radically questions the extractive, consumptive and contaminating nature of the built environment. Today, within the context of interconnected global crises, namely the climate emergency, the public health crisis and social inequity, the idea of a world where resources are recirculated is vital for planetary habitability. Yet, this question needs be addressed as a creative multidimensional design problem that reflects the aesthetic and cultural qualities of spaces as productive environments in their full lifecycles: from the moment of extraction to the moment of demolition. How can architecture produce food and be eaten away? The objective of the 2022 Tallinn Architecture Biennial is not only to display technological instrumentality, but also to reveal how architecture constructs, distributes, and leverages power via material upcycling, interspecies alliances, biopolitics and excremental processes.
In this light EDIBLE urges architects, planners, and environmental designers to reimagine planetary food systems, along with architecture’s expressive capacity to metabolize, digest and generate resources. How can we redefine traditional practices upon which the global food systems have been operating for the last decades and urge new forms of localization and production? How can we explore alternative pathways between production and consumption? How might we foster circular processes and economies through design?
Food organizes and establishes territorial sovereignty and political struggle, hidden behind power regimes to maintain aesthetic desires that in many ways change the earth. The appearance of edibles, as well as the ways in which they are ingested and then wasted, are entangled with political protocols that manufacture and empower desires. These very political protocols also define the modes of reproduction and prefigure the modes of discourse through which food is envisioned, sourced, and distributed. In this lens, we use food as tool to imagine scenarios for alternative futures.
Architecture and Food
With the different thematic entities of the main curatorial exhibition a prime objective is to illustrate how recirculatory systems and the production of 'food' manifest architectural concerns related to habitation.
Specifically, the Metabolic Home program converts the Estonian Museum of Architecture into a living machine and urges visitors to participate in a curated experiment. Each of the seven installations in the Metabolic Home exhibit how metabolic processes related to food are linked to everyday domestic spaces and activities. Food production is presented in a vertical garden; processing in an interspecies kitchen; consumption in a rewilded dining space; digestion in a lounge whose outer envelope is edible, hydration in a toilet that endlessly recirculates and filters water; nutrient release in a vertical connection for harvesting; and upcycling in a garage made of carbon negative voxels. Each domestic space is part of a larger domestic ecosystem and interacts with the other installations (house parts) in a feedback chain of resource exchanges.
In addition, the program From Bricks to Soil showcases a collection of edible, upcycled, productive and compostable building prototypes and parts, magnifying the importance of awareness of the origin, process, use and final destination of our built matter.
Food and Geopolitics engages with planetary phenomena and large-scale territories via maps, drawings, films and visualizations of mass migration and food sourcing in challenging environmental conditions and zones of conflict.
The Archaeology of Architecture and Food Systems displays an archive of radical, speculative projects that architects, and artists envisioned throughout the twentieth century.
Finally, the Future Food Deal exhibits guidelines, cookbooks, as well as visionary drawings and manifestos, on how architecture may respond to the problem of alienation between people and their sources of food provisions in a time of increasing urbanization.
The selected projects portray a variety of approaches that explore the principles of kinship, interspecies alliances, circularity, and localization. From new breeding practices, farming food waste, to synthetic growth and degrowth, EDIBLE aims to generate new visions and to raise critical questions on the rituals, practices and architectures that can emerge from the networks of food production, consumption, distribution, and decay.