Farming and banqueting in useless buildings
All this week, Andre has been co-leading a design studio in the UoB Summer School of Re-construction, part of the EU-funded Interreg program Facilitating the circulation of reclaimed building elements in North-Western Europe.
Working with students from Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and Morocco and the multi-disciplinary artist Inês Neto dos Santos, we are looking at how redundant office buildings could be repurposed as food hubs. The challenge is to incorporate an urban farm and banqueting hall into a “useless building” by only using materials that can be sourced from four buildings identified by students.
Here, students Ugne Neveckaite, Soukaïna Lahlou, Natalia Hryszko and Natasha Hromanchuk describe what they did during the first week:
‘During the pandemic, there was a decline in demand for office buildings, and our goal was to each identify one as a “material bank”. Some buildings have a rich history and are located in historical surroundings, and some were constructed very recently. Some are big infrastructure hubs, and some are huge modern complexes. We have visited them either virtually or physically to gather photos and to document their existing situation. After getting familiar with each building, we categorised all the materials in our buildings and then inventorised the materials to create virtual catalogues of the buildings’ “ingredients”.
Inês then ran the workshop Recipe for a useless building: repurposing spaces through repurposing recipes as a springboard to develop the food theme. We started by diving into Ines’ references (Julia Child’s and Lexi Smith’s recipes) before analysing the recipes for meals we were familiar with and then trying to turn them into recipes for the office buildings. During a creative writing exercise, each of us imagined and described a banquet taking place in redesigned offices. Preparing this event makes us all gather around a meal and be part of the scenario by experiencing the cooking, preparing and serving ourselves, even though – due to the Covid pandemic – we are far from each other. Here is a fragment of one of the texts created during the workshop:
“…It is about nature reclaiming the building back. The seeds of tomatoes are falling out while cutting them. The tomatoes are overripe and soaking, spilling insides on the cutting board. The community collects these seeds and dries them. Next year, they will be planted. The day is coming to an end and the sharp taste of onions stays in your mouth the longest. How do you experience surroundings while eating? The muted noise of cars in the distance goes down slowly and wind spreads flavours around us…”
Taking inspiration from the texts written during the workshop, each of us came up with design ideas for banqueting and urban farming spaces in each of the office buildings. We have now decided to work collectively on one building – the U4 located in Vienna. A lecture about urban agriculture by Andre helped us to better understand the challenges and opportunities of growing food in the city and our vegetarian menu for the virtual banquet that we will host on Tuesday will be used to define the crops grown in the urban farm. By cooking and then enjoying our meal together with other students from the School of Re-construction, we hope to live the experience of food’s power to bring people together.’
For further information see the School of Re-construction’s own website.
For information about the work of Inês Neto dos Santos see here.
Image: Ingredients catalogue sample documenting resources within an office building (source: Ugne Neveckaite 2021)