Harvard University Graduate School of Design: Food and the City.

Prof. Andre Viljoen attended a seminar on Food and the City hosted by Mohsen Mostafavi, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Andre and research partner Katrin Bohn were invited based on their ongoing work related to the Continuous Productive Urban Landscape (CPUL) and CPUL City concepts.

The seminar, initiated by Prof Mostafavi, was co-curated with architect and author of “Hungry City: How food shapes our lives” Carolyn Steel. The Harvard Graduate School of Design have an ongoing history and interest in exploring relationships between ecology, landscape, urbanism and architecture, most recently discussed in Charles Waldheim’s book Landscape as Urbanism.

Food and the City was moderated by BBC radio 4’s Sheila Dillon (Food Programme) and included short presentations by Prof Tim Lang (City University), Ruth Rogers (Riverside Café) and others from the food industry and design disciplines. The seminar focussed on the pressing need to address food inequalities that are evermore present within the UK and USA, focusing on how planning and design has a major role in reconciling urban and rural relationships and in turn the qualities of the futures we choose to create and inhabit.

In bringing together practitioners from the worlds of design and food the seminar re-established several relationships within an expanding community of practice. The overriding message from the architects participating was that while we may not have much agency as individuals who are contractually obliged to serve clients, we do have political agency if we choose to exercise it and furthermore practice, by its nature, will be aligned to ideological positions and these cannot be ignored.

The venue for the seminar was the house designed by Richard and Sue Rogers in 1967 for his parents and now run as a London base and residency for the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Rogers wife, Ruth who runs the Riverside Café, described how the house was designed as sequence of spaces leading from the road side entrance via a guest house, courtyard, main house and finally into a garden. She contrasted this with the journey she used to take when visiting the house; a direct path from the road side entrance to the fridge!