We all eat.
Growing, harvesting, preparing and consuming food together are human universals dating back to the Neolithic. However, our current food systems are a major cause of ill-health, social inequality and environmental damage.
Neighbourhoods play a fundamental role in this challenge, yet the way we plan our cities, produce and consume food seem to be left out of the architectural conversation. Currently neighbourhoods import most of the food their inhabitants eat and export large amounts of residual waste. Feed-Back is a process to revert those trends.
It aims to raise a series of questions to our communities and to upgrade them as environmentally responsible food systems.
Could our neighbourhoods start producing their own food and upcycling waste?
Could preparing meals become a social activity across generations, mitigating segregation?
How are we going to intervene in the physical spaces to enhance the change?
What did you not eat that you wish you did?
What do you throw away that disturbs you?
What food would you never eat and why?
What do you crave?
How do you determine what is quality food?
What food options are 15 minutes walk from your home?
Where do you get your recipes?
Graphic 1: How does it work now?
Our cities mediate the global food system yet have evolved as sites of consumption, while the countryside is restructured by industrial production. The immense amounts of waste in both places are concealed from one another. This diagram shows how the standard process of producing food as a linear process affects our personal health, our economy and global ecology.
Graphic 2: What could it be?
Consider an alternative food system, based within the community that works on a circular model of production and consumption. Imagine eliminating waste and providing multiple opportunities for participation and connection.
Feed-Back to Høje Gladsaxe
We have started to work with Høje Gladsaxe, a large community of approx. 4,000 residents north of Copenhagen. The population density of the development combined with the proximity of vast natural areas offers a great opportunity for food production. Many initiatives relating to innovative food systems are already happening in the neighbourhood.
- Lars Fairytale Garden – Is an allotment run by resident Lars and others living in the same housing block. There are currently 29 residents with spots in the garden in which they grow a whole host of flowers and vegetables including, onions, potatoes, leeks, herbs, and strawberries. They hope to expand the garden as there is a waiting list for places.
- Høje gladsaxe food bank, This group collects food from the district food bank and then freezes and prepares it to be used for community events such as weekly brunches, after school homework group and some of the other groups dining events.
- Green Neighbor (Grønne Nabo) is a local community aiming to expand awareness about sustainaibility and climate action, it is active with barter markets and vegetable communal dining.
- Food Waste Group (Madspildsgruppe) is a group of volunteers focusing on minimizing food waste by reusing it in various activities and creative initiatives.
- HG Eating Together (HG Spiser Sammen) is a group of volunteers preparing food for their neighbours the second Thursday of each month. There are many other groups including Family Dinner, a free monthly event aimed at encouraging families to dine together with others. This is held in the church and is run by local volunteers.
- The Food and Film Club (Mad-og Filmklubben) is a food club for 60+ people integrating movie projections to food preparation and communal dining activities.
- The Nature Detectives (Natur-Detektiverne) tours the natural surroundings of Høje Gladsaxe and learn from it and about it. It is open for everyone with a particular focus on parents and grandparents with children.
Image 1: Feed-Back to Høje Gladsaxe
Mapping of currently utilized spaces within the area, also highlighting the existing food initiatives.
Instead of imposing dogmatic ideas and top to bottom design concepts our goal is to create synergies between the existing initiatives to help them thrive.
We kicked-off a collaborative approach actively involving residents, stakeholders and guests. By joining their monthly dinner event, we gained a much broader understanding of the resources and community groups already active within the area. This also showed us where there is potential room to integrate new methods and tools.
With adaptive transformation and focused space planning interventions to the existing environment, we are aiming to upgrade the physical spaces of Høje Gladsaxe with more and better opportunities for sociality and environmental awareness.
Image 2: What if there was a new gateway to Høje Gladsaxe...
Using food to activate the unused parking squares will give them a new purpose and create a gateway through the wall of buildings.
The Feed-Back Table
The Feed-Back Table was developed as a physical tool to kick-off the participatory process. It is a round table with no head, implying that everyone who sits has equal status. It is realized with re-used materials and contains questions to facilitate a dialogue as well as a central planter with edible flowers.
The Table will move to different public spaces and host a calendar of cultural activities related to food. The objective is to gather input from knowledgeable people working to support the implementation of a circular food economy. It is also part of the plan to introduce the concept to potential investors and simply increase the public awareness about the issue.
Image 3: Feed-Back Table
A circular table with questions and case-studies with a garden of edible flowers, herbs and vegetables at the centre.
The Hacktivist Guide to Food security
The Hacktivist Guide to Food Security is a publication designed around the question of agency. It uncovers existing approaches across multiple scales and directly addresses the query: “How I can effect change in the food system?”. The guide looks analytically into a selection of cases in order to reveal how environmental, economic, world-view and social conditions led to a particular system, alongside factors of establishment and operation (inputs, outputs and processes). For the reader, it seeks to demystify and compare innovative food systems so that possibilities for engagement become clearer and practical
Image 4: The Hacktivist Guide to Food Security
A six part publication featuring tangible examples of transformative food production strategies.
Anyone interested in upgrading our food systems is encouraged to join Feed-Back. To help guide the process our team includes experts that can facilitate dialogue, collaborations and creative processes. By joining you will potentially move to all spaces related to food in a community - gardens, kitchens, dining spaces, recycling facilities and markets. Your focus will be on reshaping the physical environment and identify what stands in the way of locally shared meals and meal preparation.
The Feed-back model gives us as architects and city planners an opportunity to engage, learn, and bring findings into future city planning - for better cities, buildings and spaces that are inviting for all generations.