Archive for the ‘review’ Category

As announced, here are some notes on the Food and The City expert meeting held at the Amsterdam’s Academy of Architecture.

Our purpose was to collect ideas and data on the impact of food production on the environment and society, and to provide possible strategies to overcome the ongoing food crisis for VOLUME’s issue on Sustainability.

Three different models and ways of thinking the present and the future of agriculture were confronted, but some initial points were shared among our guests:

  • The era of the Green Revolution has come to an end: our agricultural model – as it is based on massive use of fossil fuel, – is today economically inefficient, and noxious for the environment
  • For this reason, the Green Revolution food system is no longer able to feed a growing world population and to deal with poverty and social inequalities
  • New models of food production, processing, retail and consumption are needed to overcome the present crisis
  • All the possible new models must get food production back to the urban environment

Peter Smeets from Wageningen University presented data and future projection on agricultural markets and techniques, showing advanced technologies able to reduce energy and chemical inputs, improving yields and profitability of agriculture enterprises. Food production, especially high added value crops, should be integrated in the metropolitan areas, taking advantage from transporation, cognitive and technological networks. Forms of international horizontal and vertical labour division are welcome in this model, taking advantage of comparative production costs.

On the contrary, artist and designer Debra Solomon criticized this position, claiming that hi-tech developments require a further centralization of the food industry in few, big corporations, threatening the delicate balance of local food systems and expropriating communities from their right to food sovreignity.
For this reason, she advocates the development of light technologies designed around communities, seeking integration with other urban activities.

Architect Jago van Bergen, presented a totally different approach.
A future crisis scenario – the rising sea level and the salinization of agricultural land in the Randstad area – is taken as an opportunity to re-think agricultural production, giving the possibility to design for the first time a true, genuine “Dutch cuisine”, generated by the specificities of the Randstad territory.

Contributions from Debra Solomon, Jago van Bergen and from the Alterra department of Wageningen Universities will be featured in VOLUME 18.

The debate on sustainability in architecture was in the past years dominated by energy saving and renewable energy production, transportation management, urban densification and other technical solutions.
While these solutions address important contemporary issues, they don’t provide a vision on what we mean with a ‘sustainable’ society and what is the future that we expect, or fear.

But some installations at the Italian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale are opening the debate in other directions. Some architects are starting to propose different visions of nature, and of human relationships with the environment.

While the progressive hybridation of human activities with natural ecosystems has made outdated the traditional nature preservation instruments,  Ecologic Studio proposes ecoMachines, adaptable mechanisms meant to support a comprehensive urban ecological practice. An ecoMachine, is an adaptable mechanism to manage, transform and assess human actions in their ecosystems. As the Architects claim, this could be a very operative way of being ecologists.

French office Coloco sees the possibility to reuse each piece of neglected land, in order to bring life in them. They propose the term ‘Urbanodiversity’, to describe how urban life dynamics itself evolve, react to external stimuli, and produce unexpected consequences. As they suggest, “nature is not an ideal state, but a relentless force of renewal which operates at any scale”.

Avatar Architettura, through an attractive collage-style installation, envision the edible edifice, a total urban structure providing shelter, food and leisure made free from money and economic exchange.

Ecosistema Urbano doesn’t want to envision utopian futures. On the contrary, they start from practical and empirical facts. In their installation “10 things we learned from the city” they propose adaptive and democratic practices based on processes and participatory techniques, extending the scope of ecological thinking to social, financial, political and cultural domains.





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