The Culinary Cathedral
Eugenio Cappuccio @ Glasgow School of Art
Food is the most universal and accessible of cultural manifestations, as we all need to eat to live. Like dialect and architecture, food traditions are a main component in the intricate and impulsive system that joins culture and geography into regional character.
The proposal is a building that celebrates the importance of food within our cultural identities and customs. The programme aims to:
1.Offer insight into the process of alimentation and preparation techniques of cuisine.
2.Create a forum for the appreciation and consumption of food, promoting the act of eating as a social activity.
3.Provide a collection of ingredients and food-related literature to educate and inform people in an interactive manner about specific culinary techniques, ingredients and their provenance.
In Architecture and the City, Aldo Rossi states that the monument has an autonomous role within the fabric of the city, and it is not the surrounding environment that is needed to understand it. The monument becomes the urban artefact, acting as a reference and a symbol, embodying the specific character of the site in which it finds itself. Its permanence will preserve the memory of its time, independent of its function in the future. The project seeks to:
1.Become another landmark within the city centre; an object concretising the locus of its place through a rationalised form that can be seen and recognised from afar.
2.Establish a connection with the Briggait, preserving the typological shell of the building but repopulating and adapting the internal space for the proposed programme.
3.Be ambiguous in its architecture yet permanent in matter, allowing it to evolve over time .
What prompted the project?
The choice of programme is a response to the erosion of ritual that we have seen since the beginning of modernity; a result of the increasing secularisation of Western society.
Previously, in early modern Europe, religious and civic rituals offered periodical respite from labour and the habitual antagonisms of everyday life. Now we find that our independent daily routines have become dislocated and fragmented, seldom overlapping with one another. Periods of time once allocated to communal rest and recreation have lost significance or have become obsolete.
Food and the act of eating are a ubiquitous example of this phenomenon. In our society we have become increasingly used to food that is prepared and packaged for us to speed up the act of eating and consequently eliminate the ritualistic importance of the activity.
The project aims to reinstate our understanding of the food we eat, providing a space where we can learn about the traditions and techniques employed to prepare food, and to rekindle a collective belief in the importance of eating as a way to disconnect from our chaotic daily routines.
How important are tools as paintings in understanding past civilisations and the evolution of humanity & its rituals?
I think that art is a very effective tool in understanding history, as it was (and is) the most primitive form for documenting society because it can be read and understood by all.
Paintings can therefore communicate visually how life was lived, and the nuances between paintings from different contexts and cultures can aid us in understanding the similarities – and differences – between the traditions and customs of those cultures.
Where did you look to in terms of research material both contemporary and past?
The site for the project is located within the historic centre of Glasgow and incorporates the former fishmarket’s main hall, the Briggait; an important artefact in the city.
As a result, Aldo Rossi’s ‘Architettura della Città’ presented a relevant basis for understanding the importance of monuments within the fabric of the city, and dealing with the sensitivity of this historic context.
Furthermore, the Briggait is currently under utilised as a space and remains for the most part vacant. The intention of the project was thus to propose a new function for it that ties it back to its mercantile past, and I looked at various contemporary references that employ the adaptive reuse of similar spaces in a successful way, such as the V&A Museum of Childhood in London, by Caruso St John.
For the architectural form of the new structure, I was intrigued by the works of sculptors such as Jorge Oteiza and Edoardo Chillida, who explore the relationship between solid and void in their works, creating a clear distinction between enclosed and exposed geometries and spaces.
I was also drawn to Kazimir Malevich’s work, and how, in Black Circleand Black Square, the artist places pure forms in such a way as to emphasise the negative space left over on the canvas, giving it as much a presence as the volume itself. I thought about how these techniques could be translated into an architectural idea.
What informed the need to design and label the building a monument?
As Rossi states, the monument has an autonomous role within the fabric of the city and it is not the surrounding environment that is needed to understand it. It becomes the urban artefact, acting as a reference and a symbol, embodying the specific character of the site in which it finds itself.
Due to the rich history of the site, its strategic placement along the riverfront (which terminates the Clyde street promenade), and the dense tapestry of varying artefacts that is located within that part of Glasgow, the site provided an excellent opportunity to define a new, contemporary landmark within the city centre; an object concretising the locus of its place through a rationalised form that can be seen and recognised from afar. The ambiguity of this form also gives the building a certain permanence that allows its function to evolve over time.
Rather than attempt to fill the void and complete the block entirely, the intention was both to accept the presence of the Briggait and celebrate it by giving it room to breathe, whilst also creating a dialogue between the two objects; the old and the new.
What informed the design of the building?
The main challenge in the design was to find a way in which to accommodate a programme that required enclosure – thus introverted spaces – whilst also bringing enough light into the building.
The ideas employed by Chillida and Malevich in their works thus helped to understand how this could be done. Like Chillida’s sculptures, I treated the volume as a mass from which openings are carved in specific moments to allow light to penetrate into the interior.
How important was the plan in the development of this? Does it relate to the canvas surface in Malevich’s Black squares?
It actually helped a lot, in principle. The plan is composed of a series of volumes stacked on top of each other in a pinwheel plan, rotating at ninety degrees in three segments.
The introverted volumes, which I described above, typically encase the functional rooms, whilst the secondary spaces in between them define the large, triple height openings. These openings can be read from outside as large voids in the mass, like the carvings of Chillida.
On the inside, they become specific moments in the building where otherwise transitory spaces are celebrated and given a new purpose. This is where my interpretation of Malevich’s circle and square informed this architectural intention, where leftover spaces become as significant as the functional ones.
What role did the various models hold? What is their relationship to the views and other forms of representation?
Throughout the project, I used models to explore and portray the materiality and craft that would be employed within the construction process.
Coming into direct contact with the true and honest nature of the materials in question helped me to understand their textural qualities and mass, as well as a reckoning of their physical properties.
For example, the process of casting the herculite site model encouraged me to understand the wider geography of the site, and how the surrounding context is stratified, whilst the labour invested in making the oak and walnut site model meant I directly came to understand the volumes and profiles of the neighbouring buildings.
I also tried to maintain a coherent palette of ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ materials, which tie into the intentions of the project. Material and texture is used throughout the building to relate to the experiential qualities of the different foods manifested in the building, and therefore I wanted this to be reflected in the drawings and models.
The models and drawings not only become ways to understand the project, but also objects; artefacts; oeuvres by themselves.
What dictated the different scales through which you seek to explore the proposition? How were these then framed within the photograph?
I wanted to explore every aspect of the project, from the macro-urban scale, right down to the junctions between elements and surfaces. The site models helped for the former, whilst for the latter I made detail models of exterior and interior moments.
For example, this constant dialogue occurring between ‘cold’ and ‘warm’ materials is showing through the 1:1 cast of a floor junction. The circulation spaces are paved in cold Venetian terrazzo and as you transition into the volumes you are greeted by the warmth of oak flooring and timber finishes, with brass trim details separating this transition.
The façade is clad in Petersen kolumba bricks, whose long and slender form help to compress and break up the massivity of the cubic volume, with a natural cream colour that ties it tonally into its surrounding context. I explored this through a 1:10 cast of the façade.
What defined the use of borrowed silhouettes from different epochs when designing for our contemporary condition?
Throughout the whole project I was constantly looking at paintings and art for references, be it Vermeer, Hammershoi, or Hopper. I really felt that these paintings conveyed a sense of nostalgia that suited the nature of the project and its programme.
Initially, the use of the silhouettes extracted from these different works of art were meant to reflect the timelessness of the architecture, and to create a sense of ambiguity as to when that image might be from.
I later realised that the use of these silhouettes is also an ironic reflection of the solitude and melancholy that the erosion of ritual, which I mentioned in the beginning, has brought about; a serendipitous coincidence that nicely ties the images to my initial intent.
How were the images structured? What were your biggest concerns when framing these?
I attended a lecture by Forbes Massie, director of Forbes Massie Studio in London, in which he described how digital imagery plays a much larger part than merely portraying the building in three dimensions for commercial purposes.
He said that a visualisation should convey a narrative. Like a painting, the composition of the image is fundamental, and light, colour and tone are essential in creating atmosphere.
I therefore looked to artists such as Johannes Vermeer and Vilhelm Hammershøi, to see how they employ light, composition and atmosphere in their paintings. My intent was to treat each image both as a standalone composition, and as a part of a sequence in a story.
For example, the ‘The Contemporary Monument’ draws compositional elements from Vermeer’s ‘View of Delft’ (1660). Similarly, ‘The Reprise Garden’ employs a similar use of light and composition as Hammershoi’s ‘Man in Chair’ (1900).
What would you say is the architect’s most important tool?
I believe that drawings remain the most effective tool for an architect. This is not just in the sense of the technical plan and section – which help in conveying the spatial progression and proportions of the various spaces, and the tectonic relationship between levels – but also ‘drawings’ such as diagrams, visualisations and renders, which help to convey atmosphere, mood and emotion.
Through drawings, we can be selective in choosing the necessary information to show in order to convey a specific aspect of the project, be it a diagram that communicates the structural concept of the building, or an image that shows how material, light and colour come together within a space.
This enables us to abstract our ideas and focus the viewer’s attention on key elements of that project to communicate concisely our architectural intent.
Eugenio grew up in the United Kingdom to Italian parents, and completed his BArch (Hons) degree at the Mackintosh School of Architecture, Glasgow School of Art, with an exchange semester at ENSA Paris-Belleville. He then went on to work in Basel, Switzerland during his placement year. He is currently about to begin an exchange semester at the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio, and will then go on to complete his final Diploma year at the Mackintosh School of Architecture.