Eating Architecture

by | 23. Aug 2012



“From the fanciful art of shifting scales to the logic of measurement promised by a teaspoon or an inch arises the secret architecture of food, or perhaps the secret food of architecture. This quiet opposition of form and substance, found in a plate of tomatoes more Pompeian red than any wall fragment, enunciates the central questions of the collection.

What can be learned by examining the intersections of the preparations of meals and the production of space? What can be made from the conflation of aesthetic and sensory tastes in architectural design and what is disclosed by their dissociation?

Such questions guide this work towards an architecture found in the gestures, artefacts, and recipes that belie any distinction between art and life. Rather than elaborating solely on the more facile comparisons, we propose that the ritual of dining, the design of meals, and the process of cookery form and inform a distinctly expressive architecture.”
Jamie Horwitz & Paulette Singley

The Arch of Vigilance constructed of cheeses, hams, sausages, and whole roast piglets, was erected for a Neapolitan festa celebrating St. John the Baptist’s Day, 1629. Woodcut rendering (Naples 1630), from prologue by Phyllis Pray Bober, courtesy the Warburg Institute.


Architects Aldo Rossi (1931-1997) and Michael Graves have designed tableware, tea and coffee pots, salt and pepper shakers, transformed into Lilliputian buildings that we move around the tabletop.

The giant form of Frank Gehry’s signature fish, rising next to the Vila Olimpica (1992), serves as a hieroglyph for unlocking his undulating curves. A small perceptual shift, in scale, position, or process, can locate design strategies in uncanny proximity to the kitchen.

Gehry’s fish, then, serves as edible architecture, formal hieroglyph, memory trace, and performative medium. The trajectory of this culinary formalism extends to his 1985 collaboration with Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, titled Il corso del coltello (The course of the knife).


The books nineteen essays, by a diverse set of architects, philosophers, artists, and theoreticians, and the “Gallery of Recipes” investigate how art and architecture engage issues of identity, ideology, conviviality, memory, and loss that cookery evokes.

The essays are organized into four sections, Place Settings, Philosophy in the Kitchen, Table Rules, and Embodied Taste, that lead the reader from the landscape to the kitchen, the table, and finally the mouth.

Prosciutto Map of Rome
“Cut, who has cut? Is a cut not a wound, a slice, something to be dressed? The “pure cut”, the pureness of this cut produces vague beauty versus adherent beauty. Where is Rome, Roma, not a series of cuts? Cuts place and frame, they position object to object, view to view.”
Carisima Koenig


Incarnate Tendencies: An Architecture of Culinary Refuse.
“For seven years she saves and prepares the bones from her meals without knowing what she is preparing them for. Then she decides to make her family’s dining room table. She choses only the chicken bones (she prefers chicken).

The bones are gently cradled below the surface of the table like a landscape, like an excavation, like an archaeological dig. The table is set. Sitting at the table waiting to eat, we look back in time.”
Natalija Subotincic


In her photograph, Luncheon Meat on a Counter (1978), the artist Sandy Skoglund identifies a reciprocity between fleshy stone and stony cold cuts, such as salami, head cheese, or mortadella, that may be found in the face of stone veneer, marble blocks or granite paving.


No Substitutions Allowed.
“The conventions of style conveyed through the delectable photograph, a clean yet consumable artefact, helped promote and codify modern architecture. The quick 1950s meal composed of a hamburger, french fries, and soda pop, followed by a slice of chocolate cake and breath mint, symbolizes a new unique American contribution to culture – the pleasure of the immediate and disposable. The photograph focuses on our desires while tempting us with clarity and purpose. We want to be where we see, we want to take these visions inside and ruminate on their special flavors.”
Urban Rock Design (Jeanine Centuori and Russell Rock


Taste in Architecture:
“The wonders of the cuisine and its physical expressions in the dining room were the tasteful remains of Marie-Antoine (or Antonin) Caréme, the first and in many ways the most important of French chefs.

Architecture was one of Caréme’s main interests. He carefully studied the architectural monuments of the past and designed elaborate table decorations called piéces montées (mounted pieces) as an outlet for his architectural passion. Those pieces were constructed with sugar, icing, and pastry dough. The photo, from Caréme, Le patissier royal parisien, shows pastry in the form of specific architectural types: Chinese hermitage, Gothic tower, and Indian pavilion.”
Marco Frascari

8eating.jpgRendering courtesy Parks Library Special Collections, Iowa State University. By definition, a table is a piece of furniture, with a flat horizontal surface supported by legs. It is also the object laid out for a meal set upon this surface, the food and drink served, and the company of people assembled around the furniture.

“The eating machine in Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 (mostly) silent movie Modern Times puts into relief the workers static position by intersecting the relentless movement of the assembly line with a forced distribution of food. The machine holds the worker in a fixed position during the feeding cycle, and the protagonist becomes quite literally a part of the machine when, in a form of technological cannibalism, the malfunctioning machine attempts to force-feed him its own mechanical parts.”
From the essay by Mikesch Muecke


Wearable Tables.
An intriguingly flexible table mediating the extremes of solely individuated and collective experience is given shape in a set of designs for use in microgravity by Ted Krueger and Jeff Shannon, professor and dean of architecture respectively at the University of Arkansas; their students developed a series of individual yet interlocking tables that allow astronauts to use a wearable tabletop alone or in groups. In this case a table represents simultaneously a space of individuality and the shared space of collectivity.


A smorgasbord of a book….promising not to give you indigestion!