Edible Architecture: Going Back to Nature

We are living in a world where we go to a grocery store, hand over the money, and carry home a bag of bread we do not know who kneaded and baked, tomatoes we do not know how they grew, and cows’ milk we do not know how tender they were milked. More and more we are getting separated from where the food we eat everyday comes from.

This disconnection has resulted from the consumerist societies we are increasingly becoming. And this consumerism can only have harmful consequences. First, it is anything but sustainable. As Ted Trainer says “a sustainable and just society cannot be a consumer society”. When we are not intimately connected to our food and the processes it has gone through, we can very easily waste it. Also, we do not really know what is going into our bodies. Many food products have lower nutritional values than we think, let alone fraudulent foods that contain harmful ingredients or are somehow mislabeled. It is estimated that worldwide 10% of food products have been adulterated.

For our world to remain sustainable, we thought that producing our food in our own kitchens is one possible solution. To this end, we considered having a kitchen unit of a hydroponic system where vegetables and fruits are grown under artificial conditions, and the excess nutrients feeding this system go to a nutrient-rich algae culturing system.

For our algae choice, we considered Spirulina (Athrospira), which in fact is a cyanobacteria but commonly known as a microalgae. This organism is considered earth’s oldest plant that dates back to 3.6 billion years ago. Spirulina is a photosynthetic organism that makes complex compounds such as proteins and carbohydrates. It is perfectly edible and thought of as the most nutritious concentrated food. The Spirulina has many vitamins, antioxidants, probiotics, phytonutrients, nutraceuticals and 60-70% protein content of its dry weight. The World Health Organization (WHO) names it ‘Mankind’s best health product’, and UNESCO sees that it is the most ideal food for tomorrow. Spirulina can be grown in a closed system such as a tubular photobioreactor that we think is a convenient way to use in a household, were it is less exposed to contamination. We also envision this tubular structure to give a new aesthetic value to the future kitchen.

To achieve the highest level of sustainability, we think we can also provide nutrients for this algal system using the household waste of vegetables and fruits. This was successfully achieved and even yielded in higher nutritional content in a different kind of algae, Chlorella vulgaris, by treating that waste into hydrolysates. We hope to get the same results when we carry out this experiment in the lab in the following weeks.

Although this might not reach all houses in the future, it will help bring our communities back closer to nature. It will make them feel more responsible and thoughtful before wasting these limited resources. It will hopefully make them genuinely appreciate the value of food when they have direct access to it and care for it rather than just pay for it.