I realized some time ago that my two passions, architecture and food, should not be mutually exclusive. In fact, the amalgamation of food and architecture would reverse a five-hundred year separation and establish a self-reliant, sustainable food delivery system. We have always had a practical need for food but have a habit of separating agriculture from our living spaces. Wendell Berry offers an insight to the cause and dramatic effect of this separation here. Also, the reliance on fossil fuels to deliver our food to us from far-off places is bound for disaster. Increased prices to transport goods coupled with soil erosion and fertilizer heavy agriculture have rendered our current food system, and overall habitat, unsustainable and teetering on the edge of extinction. The days of the three-thousand mile cesar salad are coming to a close.
However, if people and food were intelligently combined again we would gain an understanding of its importance to our lives, and quite possibly eat more nutritious food. As explained in the contact doctrine, our hands-on connection with nature enhances our understanding on how to grow with, care for, and responsibly utilize it. Just as this can be applied to trees and animals, we can take advantage of the connections with our food supply.
moss’s dedication continued when, after a visit to coop endowed Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin, I noticed Chicago lacked even one food coop. After a search I came across the fledgling Dill Pickle Food Coop, whom was attempting to open a store in or around Logan Square. I contacted them and offered to help with site selection and design so they could get off the ground. Two years later I am a vested member of the coop and have designed the new store.
The new space, located at 3039 West Fullerton Avenue (near Sacramento), echoes the ethos of the sustainable food movement by reclaiming waste and working in harmony with the land (or in this case the structure). The existing wood floor, imperfections and all, will be refinished, the existing masonry walls will be cleaned and sealed, and the existing doors will be adaptively reused as windows in a new vestibule enclosure. Even the existing ductwork will find new life as new lighting fixtures, designed by a group of UIC industrial design students. The roof will even be planted with an edible landscape to help retain stormwater, reduce urban heat island effect, and, possibly most importantly, provide produce stock for the store. Can’t get much more local than that, after all!
This is only a small step towards edible architecture. While we have put Dill Pickle coop members in direct connection with local farmers and sustainable design, the same principals must be applied to public space as well. It all starts with harnessing water and sun, the building blocks of plants and their photosynthetic process. Every element of the urban environment will have to find ways to channel and collect these precious resources for use in edible urban landscapes. That could mean planted roofs, edible planted swales between every street and building, or a fully connected natural corridor that weaves through and incorporates built space.