How Do You Solve A Problem Like A Tesco?

The Plymouth Culinary Centre formed as a result of an exploration in control within architecture and as a direct response to the power supermarkets hold over our relationship with food.

As supermarkets have developed, we have become more and more reliant on their services and have lost touch with many of the processes involved in the production of a meal. At its worst, our actions can be reduced to a self-service checkout and a microwave. We have lost the ability to do anything but consume, and in our ignorance we have become slaves to these corporations. The aim of this project is to find a way to break this cycle.

The methodological approach taken for this project was first to explore exactly how supermarkets control our relationship with food and to what extent. Based on the essay ‘A Modest Proposal’ by Jonathan Swift, a series of satirical letters were written, designed to shock by taking the business model of companies such as Tesco and extrapolating them to their logical conclusions. The speculative response described in the letters forms the antithesis for my design process, a guide to react against, which lead to the idea of creating a culinary centre that promotes the sharing of knowledge through an urban kitchen open to the public based in the heart of a market.

The building is structured as an adaptive framework; the body is raised off the ground and positioned around a main thoroughfare that acts as a physical connection between the university and the City Centre. Parts of the market space shelter under it whilst others dive down beneath the ground cutting into the historical layers of the city. Suspended between the two towers of the cookery school are a series of hydroponic webs set to grow produce, which can be sold in the market.

The framework allows for the building to be seen as a starting point; its adaptive nature preparing it for contingency. The physical connections it makes between communities are eventually subsumed by the social connections whose formations it encourages.