April 02, 2018
Princeton School of Architecture, Princeton, NJ
Social sculpture, installation, lecture

A conversation between Esther Choi and Orkan Telhan about microbes, design and the politics of dough took place around a bread installation and social sculpture designed by Choi, in the third installment of the Spring 2018 Mellon Research Forum on the Urban Environment.


The Spring 2018 Mellon Research Forum on the Urban Environment focused on how architecture and cities are mediated, experienced and represented through seemingly immaterial means. Questions included: how do theories of neurophysiology and urban form shape the way we map the inner and outer world? How do microbial landscapes determine our moods, food processes and even configurations of whole cities? And how do the ways that we smell the streets, represent the city in colour, and hear urban life change the way we embody and redesign the city? Panelists included architects, artists, scientists, designers and other scholars whose work seeks to unpack the aesthetic dimensions of immateriality in the city.

This conversation between Orkan Telhan (U Penn) and Esther Choi considered the intersections of microbes, design and the politics of dough. Some of the questions asked include: what are the biopolitics of biohacking and the microbiome? How does a renewed understanding of the relationships between food and political economy, mechanization and land politics redefine traditional narratives of design history? And how can we rethink spatial agency when we ascribe rights to our nonhuman compadres?

The intellectual ferment of this discussion was staged around Esther Choi's reconstruction of Hans Hollein's bread table from the exhibition, MANtransFORMS, which took place at the Cooper Hewitt in New York in 1976. Attendees were invited to break bread with the speakers, transforming the conversation into a participatory social sculpture. The vast "design variations" of this staple food attested not only to the different cultural settings that have shaped its various forms, but also to the crucial roles of changing microbial systems and transforming geographies of grain.

This event was organized by Evangelos Kotsioris (Architecture) and Phil Taylor (Art & Archaeology).


Orkan Telhan
Sensorial Urbanism: The Spring 2018 Mellon Research Forum on the Urban Environment