Professor CJ Lim and Food City


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Wednesday 29 October, marked yet another successful Ravensbourne Late event. On this occasion CJ Lim, Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the Bartlett, UCL, launched his new book, Food City.

CJ Lim is the founder of Studio 8 Architects. His practice engages in multi-disciplinary design and innovative interpretations of environmental sustainability programmes in urban planning, architecture and landscape. In 2006, the Royal Academy of Arts London awarded the practice the Grand Architecture Prize.

Professor Lim, whose authored books also include Smartcities + Eco-warriors (Routledge, 2010) and Short Stories: London in two-and-a-half dimensions (Routledge, 2011), took the audience of over 150 Ravensbourne students, staff as well as external guests, through the process which culminated in his most recent book, Food City (Routledge, 2014).

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Food City is a polemic research project which investigates the urban landscape in the context of food. Professor Lim’s interest in urban agriculture stems from a project of an eco-city which he participated in 15 years ago in southern China. In his view food issues were and continue to be under-represented in the public realm.

Architecture that celebrates food represents one way of bringing the consumer closer to the product. Indoor market buildings in France and Spain are examples of architecture that reaches out to the sky, in a sense of celebration. On the other hand there is the urban architecture celebrated through smells. Creating architecture that is intangible and ephemeral is yet one more way to celebrate the cultivation, distribution and storage of food.

Food in architecture is the more important nowadays when increasing numbers of people migrate to cities, and the cities are not prepared for it. Professor Lim commented that it is imperative for governments to work with a wide pool of urban stakeholders to establish ways for improving urban well-being. According to Professor Lim, and based on findings from Brazil, it is actually cheaper to keep a country’s citizens healthy, rather than pay their medical bills. Political discourse and the emphasis on activism are important characteristics of Food City.

“I want to celebrate architecture,” says Professor Lim, “I want us all to go back to a more poetic way of living."

Food City is a metaphorical interpretation of London with a fictional supreme food legislative body. The book incorporates provocative pledges on the topic of food, which should be read as metaphors. The publication covers food poetics and urban utopia, among other themes, all centred around the concept of London facing an inevitable food crisis.

The book is not intended to solve all communities’ problems, but through this work Professor Lim does express his desire for more social and architectural engagement. “I believe in making small contributions,” he says. “I find the topics of social engagement and empowerment incredibly interesting. Design is about taking a position. We should all engage in some social element that doesn’t have to be dreary either.”

2014 10 30 Professor CJ Lim - Food City 04The presentation undoubtedly left the audience with some food for thought. Ahmed, a 3rd year student in BA (Hons) Architecture, later commented: “It’s a topic which isn’t talked about all that much politically. [It is a] Good debate to talk about. This could also be useful for my future final major project.”

“We really loved it,” added Level 2 IDEAs students, Harriet and Ruta. “[The topic] Makes you think a lot, for example about whether we should eat meat. But also about more essential issues like urban planning.” Currently focusing on urban planning in their coursework, the students found the topic really useful for their project.

The book Food City was available for purchase directly following the presentation and can also be bought on Amazon

For more information about Ravensbourne Lates visit the Ravensbourne website

The event was hosted by the Institute ofIDEAs, a student run society to help organise lectures, work on live projects and bring the industry into Ravensbourne to meet the Interior Design Environment Architectures and Architecture students. More information about previous and upcoming events is available on the Institute website

(Photos credit: Samantha Wheelwright)