I really enjoyed the 2019 NTU Interior Architecture Final Project Show: Small Is Beautiful: eighty students looking, thinking, researching, reflecting, making, testing what they assume, believe and aspire to individually and together.
One of the students who thought in terms of local growing and Farm to Fork is Ambareen Arif in her project: The Local:
“Farm-to-fork is a phrase we often hear. At The Local home-grown produce not only supports local farmers, it allows chefs and customers to be part the process too, educating them on what they eat. Sustainability, reduced waste and higher quality ingredients are some of the benefits. At The Local customers dine in the sun or under the stars while enjoying fresh, flavoursome food, with ingredients they pick cooked before their eyes.”
Above: beautiful images of how ‘The Local’ might look and operate courtesy of Interior Designer Ambareen Arif
‘The Local’ resolves the problem of improving available food quality locally and connects it to regenerating the hospitality sector. Growing ingredients on a restaurant site reduces waste, food distribution pollution and encourages innovative menus. Have a look at the work of locally created Nottingham College Adams Restaurant on Stoney St
It also creates a brand that encourages genuine interest in flavour, eating food grown locally in a repurposed building. We have something similar in Cobden Chambers where a local landlord was encouraged by an influential group of professional women to let them refurbish and develop what is now a civic exchange space where independent thinking and business could be nurtured.
Amber’s Local project connects with the thinking behind locally hibernated businesses Nutri to Go, Hungry Panda, Small Food Bakery all working to produce food and service that’s reliable, nutritious and delicious. The Local was a really interesting way of thinking about a disused space (the space was modelled on The Elms Primary in St Anns a heritage site) . Amber selected it through a real interest in recuperating the history of buildings, studying ruins and sites:
Amber uses the ideal of ‘flow’ the flow of things to express how Small is Beautiful is also working to collaborate with the energy in things. We’re invested in the world but usually in a highly consumerised version where our expectations are micro managed. The Local allows us to participate in something that’s just ‘good’: walking into an environment that’s growing to experience fresh smells and sights, creating a sense of absorption, immersion and clarity. Vegetables are grown throughout the restaurant and bar, so the smell and sight of fresh ingredients is the environment. Customers select vegetables.
Research also shows that in the average kitchen the opportunities for learning about new ingredients is limited. The Local is a way of normalising growing new products.
There is something extraordinary about revaluing something that touches the spirit. Amber used what she saw, felt, intuited in the old school to connect with the building, the previous occupants to create a community future that she felt was alive.
Amber talks about the experience of the project and emerging as a designer.
“When the brief was introduced as “Small” I was a little worried, as on placement most of the bars and restaurants I had been involved in designing were large. I wasn’t sure how to scale down yet have the same effect and impact.
“Small” has made me appreciate little things and details a lot more. It’s made me realise just how important small independent bars and restaurants are and how if they can harness details, history, ideas of local that you’re building a unique brand where people feel comfortable and are natural brand ambassadors. “Small” can also be exclusive, which is intriguing.
After the project, I’ll never look at “small” in the same way: there’s a whole world in a grain of sand!”
Below a slideshare of growing local throughout the UK and US: