Celebrating Foodservice Permaculture On World Architecture Day
Since 1985, the first Monday of October has been celebrated as annual World Architecture Day. The International Union of Architects (UIA) programmed the celebration of their profession with UN World Habitat Day, which motivates global citizens to reflect on the state of our towns and cities whilst acknowledging the universal human right to adequate shelter.
Today, AFRICA: Seen & Heard and The Sustainable Restaurant Association celebrate World Architecture Day by aligning the three pillars of the Food Made Good Standard’s framework –Sourcing, Society and Environment - with the ecological design system of Permaculture.
This provident focus of our investigation throughout the year is in synergy with the UIA’s recently announced 2023 theme ‘Architecture for Resilient Communities’.
The foodservice and architecture industries intersect in the development of innovative climate action solutions and community collaborations.
Permaculture is more than just a portmanteau of the words permanent and agriculture. It is a creative and ethical design process with a philosophy of working with nature rather than against it to improve the built environment and human behaviour.
In 1975, Charles Knevitt, a British journalist with a specialism in architecture, composed the term ‘community architecture’ to define a built environment that is available for and stimulates the participation of its community in a socially inclusive way.
Although this concept - which was championed by the Prince of Wales, now King Charles III - focused on improving living conditions it also stimulates effective choices in regard to ensuring climate action and sustainability within inner city commercial premises.
Before his death in 2016, I was lucky to gain many holistic insights into developing inner city sites from Mr Knevitt. In his final year of life he was made an Honorary Fellow of the RIBA for his contribution to architecture.
In September 2023, I picked up the thread of this conversation with economist Keith Boyfield, a former consultant to the Crown Estate and founding partner of the International Garden Cities Institute.
During the early 20th century, the garden city movement that led to the building of Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City aimed to create satellite communities outside of central cities separating them from greenbelts. Residences, industry and agriculture were to be proportionate.
Mr Boyfield shared insightful information on the historic legacy and contemporary practice of Garden Cities around the world and agreed with integrating permaculture into existing premises and the development of foodservice buildings in new settlements. He noted how many restaurants across the UK and worldwide now placed an emphasis on growing their own produce and championing indigenous biodiversity:
“A lot of discerning customers are looking for that sort of approach and that’s one of the reasons why they’ll go to those restaurants. I think it’s becoming one of the very important pillars of marketing restaurants because the business is becoming increasingly competitive. A lot of young chefs in their 20s and people coming into the industry are very committed to growing their own produce and also having a much more diverse range of vegetables and herbs and fruit.
On the planning side, increasingly we’re looking into creating sustainable communities and towns and rather than just having squares with lawns on, there is an increasing interest in creating new communities – it goes back to the old days of allotments – having people in the community and cafes and restaurants growing more and more of their own produce.
I think that planners in creating these new towns and villages, ‘eco-towns’ I suppose you could call them, are going to be looking to specifically devote space to small horticultural plots and gardens. These might well be connected to catering and hospitality units, adjacent areas where they can actually develop their own horticulture.”
In capital cities across the world, foodservice providers are increasingly maximising the footprint of their sites by retrofitting existing buildings with permaculture designs. This practice increases sustainability, productivity and community resilience by positively aligning building, biological and behavioral activities.
In both Paris and London, the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary arts school has led by example in both new build and retrofit permaculture design. The rooftops of the respective national bases - in Paris, the new glass and aluminium headquarters opened in 2016 and in London, the Bloomsbury Square base occupied since 1931 – each accommodate a living larder that teaches students how to cultivate herbs, fruit and vegetables, shelter pollinating insects and produce honey in an urban environment. Circular economics are integrated with composting machines for garden and kitchen waste and irrigation via water pumps.
On September 1st 2023, Muyiwa Oki the youngest ever and first Black President of the Royal Institute of British Architects began his two-year term with an acknowledgement that:
“Experts predict that 80% of the buildings that we will use in 2050 have already been built today. Therefore, increasing the longevity and energy efficiency of our existing buildings through retrofit is essential to achieving a low carbon future.
Calls from RIBA, and others, for a National Retrofit Strategy haven’t produced the policy action that’s needed. I promise to use my platform to keep this pressure on.”
Over the past decade, foodservice sites have led the way by championing and showcasing ingenious and inspiring retrofit activities from basements to rooftops.
In Central London, prime real estate examples include a dedicated mushroom room in St James’s restaurant Fallow.
Golden Enoki, Hen of the Woods and Lion’s Mane mushrooms are cultivated in spent coffee grounds for the restaurant’s celebrated Mushroom Parfait dish. Edwardian Grade-II listed Rosewood London’s rooftop garden supplies the five star Holborn hotel’s kitchens with an array of seasonal delights. Winter purslane, which is served immediately after picking, delivers a sweetness beyond compare.
In the age of sustainability, architects designing new commercial buildings are concerned about and committed to tackling ecological balance, climate change and resource depletion, particularly as the built environment accounts for c.37% of global carbon emissions.
Worldwide, foodservice providers have proven to be committed to tackling this issue. A variety of sustainable practices reduce carbon footprints and integrate circular economics.
For example, in Neukölln-Rixdorf, a downtown area of Berlin, the popular Café Botanico incorporates organic permaculture within its premises. The site produces heirloom vegetables and 200 species of edible wild plants. As well as facilitating garden-to-table traditional Italian cuisine since 2013, the restaurant serves the community by allowing direct access to its urban food forest.
In Puglia, southern Italy, Casamatta, a 1 Michelin Star restaurant within the Vinilia Wine Resort makes great use of genius loci and the neo-eclectic Roman style of the early 20th century castle Casina Ciraci.
The resort’s design observed and interacted with the natural environment ensuring the capture and storage of renewable energy and resources such as rainwater for later use. Renewable resources and natural systems were emphasised over non-renewable alternatives and design elements were integrated rather than segregated:
Permaculture adheres to universal social ethics and can preserve intangible cultural heritage in its commitment to caring for the earth, people, and ensuring fair share of food resources amongst communities where it is practiced.
In the Far East, many Michelin Starred chefs preserve the culinary heritage of their national cuisines by growing traditional vegetables and herbs on their restaurant’s sites.
Chef Kazuyuki Miyamoto of Chugokusai Naramachi Kuko one of five Michelin Green Star restaurants in Japan’s Nara prefecture preserves indigenous biodiversity whilst promoting sustainable gastronomy.
Of the edible plants he and his wife cultivate on site he states:
Permaculture design is guided by 12 principles developed in the 1970s by Australian biologist Bill Mollison and environmental designer David Holmgren.
A holistic approach to restoring the balance between nature and biodiversity fosters resilience across global communities both urban and rural.
Chefs can push the envelope to make existing architecture more appetising!
Consider attaching modular structural systems to exterior walls. They can make use of space no matter the height or width and be planted with obscure edible herbs unique to your business’ cuisine
Check out varieties of apple and pear that would amplify your signature desserts and could be grown against an exterior wall espalier style
Cultivate edible plants with efficacy to boost nutrient content and healing properties
Gastronomic flower gardens can be established in pots on unused terraces
Permaculture empowers foodservice providers to reach out into their community and boost social inclusion and citizen resilience by:
Engaging volunteers who can be taught new skills and beat social isolation
Training and employing local young people in Pupil Referral Units, Not in Education, Employment or Training and disabled adults.
Donating excess produce to local food banks, schools, hospitals and care homes.
Encouraging visitors to tour the permaculture site and gain healthy living and eating advice
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- Reduce Your Footprint
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
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