MetaboliCity: How can Design Nurture Amateur Cultures of Food Production in the City?

Jones, Hannah and Wingfield, Rachel. 2009. 'MetaboliCity: How can Design Nurture Amateur Cultures of Food Production in the City?'. In: Multiple Ways to do Design Research: Research Cases that Shape the Design Discipline. Lugano, Switzerland 12th - 13th November 2009. [Conference or Workshop Item]


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Abstract or Description

This paper introduces a current design research project that explores how designers can intervene sensitively within local urban food growing cultures by providing a design thinking and crafting that may help to sustain these initiatives and catalyse larger positive changes in the surrounding environment. MetaboliCity is the name for a vision of a city that metabolizes its resources and waste to supply its inhabitants with all the nourishment they need and more. This one-year (October 2008 – October 2009) participatory design research project on urban agriculture is based at Central Saint Martins, School of Art and Design and funded by the Audi Design Foundation.

The aim of the project is to design an urban grow-kit accompanied by a set of guidelines to be tested and developed at a selection of sites in London, UK. This is a design-service system that integrates both traditional and hi-tech industrialized agricultural techniques into the fabric of the built environment whilst simultaneously being rooted in permaculture thinking. Permaculture is defined as an ‘ecological design system’ that empowers city-dwellers to create ‘sustainable human habitats by following nature’s pattern’. (Robert Hopkins, 2008, p203)

The complex nature of the project calls for a Metadesign approach. Metadesign can be described as ‘a shared design endeavour aimed at sustaining emergence, evolution and adaptation’. It creates ‘open-ended and infinite interactivity capable of accommodating always-new variables’. (Giaccardi, 2005) Metabolicity will test and adapt collaborative tools and processes that have been developed as a part of the ‘Benchmarking Synergy Levels within Metadesign’, AHRC funded research project, at Goldsmiths, University of London (2005-2008).

The project is facilitated by a design and research team, the participants are amateur food producers based at four different sites in London. There are special advisors on hand from the fields of plant science, permaculture, cooking, farming, wildlife and eco-architecture. The participatory nature of the project is informed by the notion of ‘Citizen Science’ (Irwin, 1995), where amateurs and specialists are engaged in a non-hierarchical process. The project explores how designers can work in multiple ways, taking on different roles within an interdisciplinary context, mediating between experts and amateurs in the field of urban agriculture. The role of the designers is to cultivate shared processes of envisioning, weaving and growing within each of these local contexts.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Keynote)

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ISBN 978-88-6463-008-3

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13 November 2009["eprint_fieldopt_dates_date_type_shown" not defined]

Event Location:

Lugano, Switzerland

Date range:

12th - 13th November 2009


Funding bodyFunder IDGrant Number
Audi Design FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Central saint MartinsUNSPECIFIED

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Date Deposited:

30 Nov 2011 11:20

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:29


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