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Architectures for tastes

Ferran Adrià, the head chef of El Bulli restaurant near Barcelona, mentioned once that: ‘Cooking, like architecture, manifests itself in building. The cook, like the architect, draws on an infinite array of creative resources that make it possible to create wonders from basic construction materials. But even using the finest marble or the best caviar, success is not guaranteed. Architecture, like cooking, evolves and lasts in the form of memories, tastes, and temperatures.’ El Bulli is said to be one of the best restaurants in the world, opened only half the year and known for its experimental cuisine. His focus is working on the tastes and the temperatures to evoke memories.

Taste is one of the five human senses and allows to detect the flavour of food. Sweet, salty, sour and bitter are the four traditional tastes known in the Western world. These last years, research allowed to add a fifth one, Umami (Japanese term): savoriness or deliciousness, it relates to extra savory provided by glumatate based ingredient such as soy sauce, fish sauce, parmesan cheese, … Briallat-Savarin talked about Osmazome. Umami is about proteiny, cured meat, chicken soup, fish stock, aged cheese, soy sauce, seaweed, cooked tomato, and mother’s milk!

From the basis of these five tastes, we can move into the interzone of taste and tactility. The two sensitivities, taste and tactility, are etymologically related and prior to our own time were given wide credibility as important generators of knowledge and wisdom.

The 18th century architectural theoretician Francesco Milizia gives an account of taste that opens up ‘food for thought’:

‘Taste … this name is given to that understanding which feels and judges of natural and artificial works. In the beginning, taste was for judging the goodness of food, then for judging the goodness of books, statues, paintings, buildings, furniture, garments, carriages, and also all the unnecessary things, the bizarre caprices devised by luxury and fashion and quite often by the corrupted taste’.

In connection to this holistic vision of taste by someone interested in architecture, it may be interesting to invoke a South Asian framework, coming from Vedic praxis, which allow us to read food culture in a broader way.

According to Ayurveda1), there are six types of tastes or rasa and each taste has a different effect on digestion. Taste also has a long-term or post digestive effect on the body and its metabolism (vipaaka). A rasa can be light or heavy, moist or dry. Light tastes are easier to digest and assimilate; those that are heavy require most energy to digest. It is interesting to have a detailed account of this rasa classification. Rasa encompasses a wide theoretical aesthetic series of principles for many centuries and is a body of thought which was also used in the performing arts, in Indian classical dance, to classify the expression of emotions and moods.

Specifically, looking at food from a rasa point of view, one has not only a systemic view of consumption related to the body but also a synthesis of beliefs built through centuries, leading a.o. to Ayurvedic medicine.

SHORT BIO

Alok b. Nandi – http://www.aloknandi.net

Born in Congo. Raised in Zaïre. Based in Brussels. As designer / media artist / writer-director / strategic design consultant, I am busy exploring, investigating “conflicting constraints” in evolving and hybrid “contexts”. On a more abstract and conceptual note, my research interests are on : navigation, interaction, visualization, patterns, imageability, ambulation, way finding, saturation, frugality, zero, food … in general with the “story-telling” angle. Areas of activities include information design, media technologies, exhibition mise-en-scene, media art, speaking in conferences a.o. When not travelling, I make my own bread (topic of a design research case partly presented in a talk and yet to be written about). Currently busy with the “Al Dente Manifesto” a.o. while some work in progress include: Orientable, India in Flux, Extrafiction, Uzoopia, is zero no.thing ?, {creativity*conversation}, etc

CONTACT DETAILS

Form on http://www.architempo.com

nandi@fluxtopia.net

1)
traditional Hindu system of medicine, based on the idea of balance in bodily systems that uses diet, herbal treatment, and yogic breathing.
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