December 11th saw the second talk in the series organised by the Przyjazny Kazimierz Association, when Carolyn Steel, author of the award-winning book Hungry City came to the Jewish Community Centre in Krakow to give a talk about how food shapes urban architecture.
As an architect, she is fascinated by the idea that for every day in a city the size of London, enough food for 30 million meals must be produced, transported, sold, cooked, eaten and the waste disposed of (and that something similar must happen every day for every city on earth), yet this is a force that is barely recognised.
She took us on a journey from the Sumerian city-states of Uruk, Ur and Kish in ancient Mesopotamia, which were built next to their food sources, to the industrialised production systems which gave Cincinnati its nickname of Porkopolis, and the mass food production that now takes place out of sight on industrial estates around the world before the products are driven to supermarkets in urban areas. The concept of ideal communities, one that gives purpose to architects, has long been influenced by the idea of Utopia. But by aiming to create an ideal world, Utopia is an impractical tool for change. So Carolyn proposes an alternative; sitopia (from the ancient Greek sitos, food + topos, place). As she put it, “whether we realise it or not, we already live in a world shaped by food. So why not harness food?s power to shape it better?”
An essay (in English with Polish translation) by Carolyn Steel is available on www.przyjaznykazimierz.org.pl