I first thought about the idea of an edible interior when I came across ‘printed food’ a material designed by American chef Homaro Cantu providing menus for his patrons they could also eat as part of the meal. As I thought about this further through a sustainable lens, the notion occurred to me, what if all of the materials in an interior environment were edible? Would this be the ultimate in sustainable interiors?
‘Ultimate’ food experiences have until more recently been confined to the ‘fine dining’ restaurant – this is where the experience of food, the atmosphere of the interior and all of the senses combine. However with the advent of the ‘pop-up’ culture this is changing. The morphing of food as a product to be eaten and experienced within an organised environment, can now also be where the food becomes the experience and the environment, as both something which is edible and forms the experience of the space in which it is eaten; where the environment itself is edible.
This idea is being explored by people such as Cantu, who believes that, “…we’re going to need designers that think about food and design in ways that we’ve never thought about before.” Food artists and designers such as Diane Leclair Bisson, Martí Guixé, Marieke van der Bruggen, Bompas & Parr, Jennifer Rubell and Marije Vogelzang are doing just that, exploring confronting perceptions surrounding food, space and eating.
Like Cantu, Diane Leclair Bisson has been exploring the transformation of food into a material. The Edible Project, experiments with food to make edible and aesthetically designed containers as a means to reduce waste, particularly for fast food.
Martí Guixé explores the relationship between food, the vessels we use to eat food and social interaction. In his performance piece Mealing (2010), in New York, participants were provided ceramic cups with micro meals fixed to them; instructions on how to eat the meals and perform socially interactive tasks. The food as small decorative elements on the cup became part of the physical space and points for interactive discussion.
Marieke van der Bruggen’s Garden of Delights (2008) explored the concept of a space where abstract candied twigs and branches hanging from a ceiling, were picked and eaten. The colourful hanging ‘fruits’, reminiscent of the Grimm’s fairytale Hansel & Gretel, formed the experience of the interior space but once eaten the interior ceased to exist.
In Alcoholic Architecture (2009), by Bompas & Parr, the interior atmosphere is ‘drinkable’. A vaporous atmospheric cloud was created using a cocktail of gin and tonic water. Participants in the installation were provided with hooded waterproof jumpsuits, the alcohol being absorbed into their bodies through their eyeballs and lungs, instead of through their mouths. Here the entire tradition of food, or in this case drink, being consumed via the mouth has been eradicated and replaced by an absorbable atmospheric interior space. The interior and the food have become one.
Jennifer Rubell’s work engages the participant in the sensual thresholds between food and the act of eating. The scale of her work requires a strong connection with the three dimensional space that contains it with food inhabiting ceiling, wall and floor space. Her installation Padded Cell (2010) a freestanding room completely lined with fairy floss was designed to capture the sinister aspects of the pleasure of eating, the aftermath of the half eaten walls and ceiling, a visual manifestation of the gluttonous nature of wealthy nations.
However, I think it is the work of Marije Vogelzang that starts to unlock the complexities and possibilities for an edible interior. Her explorations of eating and design, provide new ways of addressing the experience of eating and the design of the environment in which this happens. Her project Connection Diner (2006) used a bread based dough as a tablecloth which covered the entire table and plates beneath. The night before the dough was cooked under a series of desk lamps. The food for the meal, soup and stew, when served into the plates cooked the dough further and by the end, each guest had eaten a part of the same tablecloth. After the main course, the remains of the dough cloth and plates were removed to reveal a pink sugar dough onto which desert was served and as before partly eaten.
So where to from here? Truly edible interiors are unlikely to be the permanent or semi permanent interiors of our future, even though food crops such as corn and soy are increasingly also being used to create renewable and biodegradable materials. Edible interiors could however increasingly be an answer to the temporary interior space, the pop-up event or exhibition. Imagine finishing the launch of a new product, then hosting a party to eat the display!