Vertical farming is architectures response to feeding growing cities, but when one of our biggest problems is wasting 50% of the food the world produces, perhaps architects should be looking at the reduction of food loss instead of how to produce more. Claire Holmes, a graduate of a Masters of Architecture at The University of Western Australia, shares her project on combating food waste in Perth, the importance of sitopian interventions in the city and what our role as architects is in initiating a global change in food thinking.
“Production Testbelt explores reusing what we have as a way of reconnecting broken food systems, it’s about pairing waste space with waste food. There are a lot of buildings around Perth that are empty or underused and could benefit from an architectural intervention that restores the relationship between food and city.”
“As a society, we understand that wasting food is bad, but I don’t think we understand it further than we must finish our plate of food. We aren’t aware of the amount of water that was required to produce our food or the greenhouse emissions emitted once it’s rotting in our landfills. I do think we need more education in our communities about food wastage. We are aware of strict water usage and harmful plastic bags – why not food waste?”
“Designing with food in mind is not about being innovative but rather about being efficient in existing systems. Architects are trained to see a bigger picture, it’s not just about pretty buildings, but rather designing experiences. Design considers social norms and asks how we can change experiences for the better, architecture is a consequence of this. I think university teaches us to critically think but sometimes this thinking is lost when translated into practice. I wanted my project to be based on current systems and problems that tackle food waste and production rather than another vertical farm which could only work in a highly speculative context.”
“Designing with food in mind is not about being innovative but rather about being efficient in existing systems.”
“Production Testbelt proposes a series of interventions to address food waste in three stages; REUSE, RECYCLE, and NETWORK. The reuse stage utilizes the existing E Shed markets in Fremantle as a physical place to buy reusable or ‘ugly’ food, learn how to cook with your leftovers and educate the community on the issues of food waste. It uses existing organizations and architecture to create an intervention.”
“The recycle stage uses the abandoned South Fremantle Power Station to create power using food scraps and waste. The amount of food waste per year in Perth would be enough to power the City of Fremantle for a year.”
“The network proposes utilizing existing transport networks in Fremantle, Bunbury, and Boyanup to distribute food and provide a research hub for future food production.”
“Food waste and production is a social issue and architecture can’t solve our problems, however, I do think architects can be appointed curators of the problem. We can design possible scenarios and interventions to address the issue, but it comes back to the idea of remaining connected to users in order to be effective. It’s important to also understand and talk about what we are addressing and what we are not addressing, and acknowledge that it takes a whole team beyond a designer to answer the problem.”
“Even though I didn’t design a “building” for my project, what I found interesting was the way architecture and design thinking could provide conditions in which problems can be solved, without pretending I’m an expert and trying to solve them.”
Claire is currently working as a graduate architect for a small practice in Perth. Since this project, Claire has felt compelled to make a change in her community, she volunteers as often as she can at Ozharvest – a food rescue organization in Perth.
Holmes, C., interviewed by Emily Greaves, 2017, Imp Café, Perth.
All images produced by Claire Holmes and used with permission
Food waste is a global problem that sees one-third of the world’s edible food thrown out while 180 million people go hungry or are food insecure. The author of ‘Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal’, Tristram Stuart describes it as ‘deprivation in a sea of plenty’.
This interview is part of a series of blogs investigating the relationship between food and architecture, food waste on a local level in Perth and what our role as architects and designers is in initiating change on an urban scale.