Connectivity, Participation, Time and Visibility
Problem: The traditional soup kitchen creates a separation between served and servers, food production and food consumption. Thomas Markus defines building typology in terms of social power structures. In the soup kitchen, the serving line reinforces the power structure inherent in homelessness: dependency on the service of others. Additionally, food consumption is purely a physical need. I have volunteered at the Blanchet House in Portland, Oregon. People line up outside the building prior to mealtime and when the doors open, they file in, eat quickly, then leave and get back in line. The goal is to cram as many calories into the body as possible in the meal time period. Awareness of food supply is completely divorced from the experience. The meals are pre-prepared from a variety of sources, which may include food from local farms or industrial farms thousands of miles away.
Affect: Moving to a more sustainable self-sufficient model can redefine the power dynamic and create a connection between people and food. Vincent Guallart, head of Urbanism in Barcelona, advocates moving away from the model of a few large suppliers providing the same thing for millions to self-sufficient local suppliers serving a variety of products to locals. He states, “The application of these structures, the construction of the physical world, promote the development of self-organized structures designed to self-sufficiency, able to create and improve quality of life, and consume fewer resources.” In regard to food production, he adds, “To give value to food, we should encourage the enhancement of large tracts of fertile land located in the vicinity of large cities, direct distribution from the point of the consumer culture and the creation of urban gardens.” This soup kitchen will function more like the Volkskuchen in Berlin; cooperative kitchens where people prepare food and consume it together.
Attachment: Architect Alejandro Zaera-Polo describes the building envelope as the first point of attachment, “The envelope is the primary site of any building’s identity. And whether we like it or not, identity is formed by a complex variety of inputs.” These inputs are Latour’s attachments, “We should finally be able to picture a building as a moving modulator regulating different intensities of engagement, redirecting users’ attention, mixing and putting people together, concentrating flows of actors and distributing them so as to compose a productive force in time-space.” The soup kitchen pavillion will be composed of a modular system, easily adjusted to by users.
Context: The pavilion modules responds to time, engaging the fourth dimension to create a dynamic structure. Branding details are purposefully absent because the user activity provides the place branding. The pavilion size adjusts to accommodate eating habits over the course of a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. These habits include meal size, food provided, and preparation.
Alejandro Zaera-Polo, interview by Jeffrey Kipnis. Date? Publication?
Bruno Latour and Albena Yaneva, “Give Me A Gun And I Will Make All Buildings Move: An Ant’s View of Architecture.” Date? Publication?
Thomas A. Markus, Buildings and Power (Routledge: 1993), 29-38.
Thomas Chevallier, “La Volkskuche, Mais A Quelle Sauce?” La Gazette de Berlin, <http://www.lagazettedeberlin.de/6599.html> (22 January 2013.)
Vincent Guallart, “Towards A Self Sufficient Habitat,” El Pais, 28 March 2009, opinion.
The Edible Bus Stop in London achieves this goal. While not so much about place branding in the sense of branding the city overall, it does provide place branding on a small-scale. It redefines blighted space and connects spaces throughout London.