In search of ways for architecture to effectively contribute to socio-environmental restoration, relational design finds a strong interest. This field relies on an interactionist understanding of technology, and has particularly been elaborated under the umbrella of post-structuralism and related advances made in Science and Technology Studies (STS) since the nineteen-eighties. Strongly influenced by phenomenology, relational design offers a rich turn in perspective over objectivised technologies. By focusing on the most important mediating and linking role that technology represents, this field sheds the light on its social role and allows for its politicisation – that is, a resensibilisation of previously naturalised socio-technical systems. We will look here to use this methodology to conceive interdependent eco-social systems closing the gap between the local environments and people.
Echoeing food and beverages technological modes of existence as much as vernacular architecture’s, relational design is particularly enhanced in the context of fermentation. In this area, terroir is a notion that has been important to qualify not only the eco-social quality of a product and its supply chain – or life cycle – but that has also been mobilised by the UN from the mid-nineteen-eighties on to fight desertification and impoverishment of villages in West Sahelian Afrika. In this context, they offered this definition for terroir:

A terroir is a delimited geographic space defined by a human community that builds throughout its history an ensemble of distinctive cultural traits, of knowledge and practices, based on an interaction system between the natural milieu and human factors.
The know-how at play reveals an originality, confers a typicity and allows a recognition for products and services that originate from this space and for humans that inhabit it.
Terroirs are living and innovative spaces that cannot only be assimilated to tradition.

During this week, students were introduced to the concept of design terroir. To explore what it entails in practice, they elaborated on it through to the craft of mycoboscus (i.e. mycelium-based composites). This consists of cultivating wood degrading fungi to upcycle a range of local byproducts by fermentation. The result of that? A stunning wood cheese.
The students were instructed to develop open source energy-passive cultivation equipment for mycobosci, based on vernacular resources.
One week workshop for the MA Computation in Architecture program, Royal Danish Academy.
Open lecture:
Design terroir: creative and sustainable pathways in and around food systems C. Pierce (Architectural Association), M. E. Hermansen (Empirical).

Team: A. Rigobello, J. D. Evans (Sustainable Food Innovation Group, DTU), T. Svilans (Royal Danish Academy).
Period: May 2023.
Duotone illustration credit: A. Rigobello.
Bottom diagrammatic illustrations credits: students Andrew Smith, Aleksandra Krasheninnikova and Tiansu Wang.