Cross training is invaluable. I like to box and practice yoga to make me a better skier. Cross training the brain can be just as valuable. Last night we attended a lecture in the Emerging Voices series given by the Architecture League. Our friends, the McDonald brothers, of Onion Flats in Philadelphia, were invited to speak about their projects and how they are not only working green, but also working holistically. The parallels to the food industry challenges were eye opening. These are simple basic challenges: how to do the least damage to the planet, possibly even making the planet a better place, how to provide an organic/green solution at affordable prices, the recognition that food and shelter are the most basic of needs and that we are in urgent need of innovative solutions to safeguard our most primal requirements. After the lecture, during the Q&A session, there was a discussion about partnering between the private and public sector, which for so long has been nothing but an adversarial relationship. The McDonalds proposed placing a water collection tank below a housing development, and this tank will alleviate flood issues in the neighborhood while providing water to sustain the green elements of the project. What a shocking, mind expanding concept: to be able to work with government and have it be mutual beneficial; which in these tainted, cynical times is something that we have not seen in a very long time.
Something as elemental as a community garden could make a huge difference in our lives. This is what Tim McDonald referred to as a ‘little idea’ that snowballs into a grand idea. The McDonald projects typically strive to create communities, not just housing complexes, their hope is to create and encourage communication and interaction between the inhabitants, much as you would find in a medieval village where it is quicker and easier to yell something across the street into an open window than to place a call or an e-mail. Now, introduce a community garden into the project. You have urban dwellers who are growing things, taking back a bit of control over their food supply, interacting with neighbors as they discuss how to eliminate tomato slugs, sharing an abundance of zucchini, reconnecting people to the ebb and flows of seasons.
Listening to them talk and to Chris Reed from Stoss LU, a landscape design company that encourages community, flexibility, and respect for nature was an enlightenment and a cause for hope. These people are slowly working to make our homes and play spaces a more healthy and responsible experience, much like many of the growers, producers, chefs and cooks are doing. Little by little we can all make small contributions, or have little ideas that will take us, collectively to a better place.
Seems like I’m not the only one to make a food and architecture connection; while doing my morning crawl of favorite food blogs, I came across this post on pastry chef Michael Laiskonis’s blog. Something blowing in the almost springtime air?