Labor in the Logistical Drawing

10Aug15

Meredith TenHoor. July 2015. Excerpt from Log 34, Spring/Summer 2015

Today, architectural designs for food infrastructures plaster the walls of architecture schools. Thesis projects for vertical farms and food distribution networks showcase the capacities of architects to think about infrastructure: to map complex supply and logistics chains and therefore improve “inefficient” food systems by harnessing data and design to eke out new efficiencies and ecologies from the production of food. Drawings show food making its way from farm to table through channel x, geography y, building z. Shortest-path diagrams and efficiency calculations intended to reduce food miles and carbon loads reign supreme. Though they do not claim to provoke wholesale economic transformation, or to lower food costs, as projects of the 1940s to the 1960s did, today’s food projects nonetheless sketch stories and aspirations for what architecture can accomplish ecologically, economically, and socially, to such a degree that they have become ideal programs for demonstrating a commitment to ecology and an aptitude for the production of complex diagrams. Food projects are also, crucially, outlets for aesthetic pleasure – both of consumption and of judgment – that is too often suppressed within architectural studios. (Cuisine seems to be the realm of creative production where aesthetic judgments are most safely levied today, after their departure from the world of art and architecture criticism.) Architects expand their representational, diagrammatic, and mathematic capabilities through engagement with such challenges.
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