This is the question students at Princeton University have been tangling with over the past four months as part of Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Ryan Welch’s Graduate Architecture Studio at Princeton University. The studio investigation is also part of a larger program called “CultureNow”, which was initiated by the White House and is being administered by architect Thom Mayne across about a dozen American architecture schools. While each school it taking its own initiative towards an investigation of contemporary culture across 2nd tier American cities, the work will be compiled into a single document and website.
Last week students presented to a panel of critics composed of architects, urban planners, theorists, entrepreneurs, artists, and even DJs (DJ Spooky, aka Paul D. Miller who happens to be a huge architecture buff and truly bright guy). Students proposed pavilions, cultural hubs and installations. The Zoko team even proposed a New Orleans-based gathering spot that made use of food nearing its’ expiration date. By attaching a temporary structure to big-box retailers like Wal-Mart and derelict spaces, the city could begin addressing some of the food dessert issues that make it one of the best cities on earth for food but also one of the biggest problem areas in the United States in regards to obesity and those who can’t afford healthy food. These spaces become not only areas to distribute food but also to teach cooking techniques and build a sense of community. If we remember a while back, the Zoko team proposed a similar space in a shipping container at the DeKalb Market in Brooklyn, NY.
On a larger scale, the Zoko team proposed ways of creating closed-circle farm-to-table scenarios that would allow members of a community to pitch-in based on what they could provide- Some could offer land, others could offer their service and others could actually participate in the preparation. These reciprocity-based ideas are consistent with the goals of Zoko while providing value to people of different socio-economic backgrounds. In a way, these propositions aren’t different from the Txokos of Spain where groups of people collaboratively purchase a home together to be used for meeting and building camaraderie around the dinner table.
The team is thankful for the work of Jia Chum, Adrian Heid and Jane Chua and to Alejandro and Ryan for allowing us to be involved. While we can’t speak for the other companies that participated, we’re excited to find ways of actually implementing some of the exciting ideas the students suggested.
Check out the images below to see more.