Debra Solomon: Shaping communities with Food
In 2004, Debra Solomon (artist/designer) began publishing her independent research on food, food culture, and the culture that grows our food on culiblog.org. Culiblog is an internationally recognized resource about food systems, sustainability, urban agriculture, food-related art/design, architecture, and urban planning.
An ongoing project, Lucky Mi Fortune Cooking is a free kitchen and culinary embassy in Rotterdam using surplus food, expertise and facilities flows from the Afrikaandermarkt neighbourhod. The free kitchen produces new food products from local flows through collective entrepreneurship, street food design and resulting in actual dim sumptuous foods and snacks.
In 2007 Solomon co-curated the Edible City (NAi-Maastricht) on food and the built environment and was food domain expert of DOTT07, a design biennial in Newcastle (UK) and was part of the design team of the award winning Urban Farming Project in Middlesbrough.
Currently Solomon is working with architects teams and local people on projects that are radical visions for community involvement with food systems and urban agriculture. With STROOM Den Haag and many local organisations Solomon is developing a 'real' edible city for the Schilderswijk in Den Haag. Aside from edible landscaping, the co-designs include open-to-the-public communal kitchen facilities and infrastructure aimed at bolstering social cohesion through local food-related micro-economies. Read more on her weblog, www.culiblog.org.
Recently rediscovered as a strategic tool for sustainability, urban agriculture (UA) is touted as an emerging trend in Western cities, lured back from hiatus after a brief appearance in the Victory Garden followed by decades behind dark glasses. Currently UA features prominently in artsy social cohesion projects and designer-rich urban regeneration schemes. But a truly visionary form of UA, one that takes into account both urban and regional planning, one that is deeply informed by local cultural heritage, and one that accesses the existing social networks of local communities and their food system infrastructure has not yet been realised. Once the location of local farms supplying the city with food, Amsterdam West has been the location of intensive urban development. UA’s biggest challenge in Northern European cities like Amsterdam and it's western suburbs with their agriculture tradition, will be its integration into civic planning and infrastructure such that city dwellers can access its benefits. UA’s second biggest challenge will be to grow, harvest and sow it’s own cultural heritage and to forge a sumptuously visual identity resplendent with vital programming and content relevant to existing (and future) Amsterdam communities.