Digestion - Nick Axel, Nikolaus Hirsch, Lydia Kallipoliti, and Areti Markopoulou - Editorial


Nick Axel, Nikolaus Hirsch, Lydia Kallipoliti, and Areti Markopoulou

Haus-Rucker-Co, Food City I, 1971, presented in the Armory Gardens (now the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden), June 13, 1971. Photo: Powell Kreuger.

September 2022

Digestion is a collaboration between e-flux Architecture and the 2022 Tallinn Architecture Biennale, curated by Lydia Kallipoliti and Areti Markopoulou, featuring contributions by Rachel Armstrong and Rolf Hughes; Montserrat Bonvehi-Rosich; Aude-Line Duliere, Juliet Haysom, and James Westcott; Reif Larsen; Mae-ling Lokko; Meredith TenHoor; Mark Wigley; Lindsey Wikstrom; and Feifei Zhou, Zahirah Suhaimi, and Jefree Salim.

When bodies digest, they draw out the nutrients from what has been consumed, separating it from what will be excreted as waste. Digestion is, in its most basic sense, a process of extraction, one that materially transforms the nature of whatever is ingested. While the systems that regulate it are often unable to easily or definitively distinguish between toxin and aliment, digestion is the body’s most fundamental way of sustaining health, vitality, and wellbeing.

In as much as it is known, the body has long served as an analogy for understanding and acting upon the complex, often invisible relations inherent to architecture and urban environments. Its physical dimensions, psychosocial dynamics, and sensuous dispositions have repeatedly served as a guidebook for how to design buildings and cities. This has also worked the other way around, with certain buildings and cities becoming exemplary, or archetypical, insofar as they teach us how the body (or bodies) work, what they want or need.

During the pandemic, we have all become witness of the fact that the human body is the most powerful instrument of biopolitics. When there is an immediate and abrupt change in the reality and canons of physical encounters, and in the ways that bodies relate and form spatial protocols, our understanding of larger questions—planetary habitability, climate justice and environmental ethics— becomes painfully present. Food uncertainty and the impact of the pandemic on industrial food production have foregrounded the urgency for a united reflection on the fragility of our production and distribution processes, the significance of their geolocation and mediums, our hubris in the pursuit of ceaseless growth and endless mobility, and finally, our accountability for how we occupy our planet.

The waste products of a human body’s digestive system are connected to numerous treatment systems that allow it to be reincorporated into a wider ecological system; to continue circulating. The waste products of buildings, however, rarely do. In exceptional cases, the landfills to which most former buildings are destined become new land. But thinking what it would mean to build systems capable of treating the food and the waste of a city itself—its building—would entail nothing short of radically rethinking what it means to build a city as such. It would take exploring the way that agricultural systems, culinary arts, and digestive processes are conditioned by built environments (and vice versa), as well as how the built environment could itself become subject to cultivation, harvest, and consumption.

Digestion is a collaboration between e-flux Architecture and the 2022 Tallinn Architecture Biennale, supported by the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), the Estonian Museum of Architecture, and Friendship Products.

Architecture, Nature & Ecology, Urbanism
Agriculture, Sustainability, Food & Cooking, Infrastructure, Environment
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