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Kings Cross Foraging Group

Part 1 Project 2010
Conrad Koslowsky
Architectural Association, UK
Creating the Foucauldian Mirror in King’s Cross –

With Foucault as a departure point for the year, my analysis of King’s Cross in London was informed by the themes of transgression, subversion, and escape inherent in the notion of heterotopia. A recent proliferation of large, corporate office space has followed on the heels of St. Pancras International, and the droves of commuters it brings to the area. As such, what was once alien to King's Cross is quickly becoming the generic, the everyday.

The reaction is not to antagonize an inevitable trend, but to undermine the capitalist ethos that has brought the generic development by riding on its coattails, while at the same time outperforming it. A scavenging commune in the heart of King’s Cross seizes the opportunity provided by the inevitable and limitless waste afforded by industrial production. Beginning with food (the site is near a shiny new Tesco), the commune collects and reprocesses waste into delicious and free products, undermining the value base of corporate branding. Rather than shun consumption, scavenging celebrates it, and in many ways does it better.

There are no banners announcing this radical group’s arrival. Instead, it begins by hosting a quietly hedonistic meal in an abandoned warehouse. Over time, the group grows, collecting more and more waste from nearby grocers, and in Fordian fashion, develops more and more sophisticated processing techniques. The empty industrial core of the block that the group occupies is fortified behind a wall of residential buildings. Narrow and concealed alleys lead to this uncanny ‘other’ world of production and consumption.

Scavengers take what comes their way. Just as scavenged meals can never be entirely premeditated, the foraging group builds its complex with found waste from the construction industry. However, because there is some predictability in what might be found, it is possible to create certain techniques that capitalize on the potential decadence of waste. In the Kings Cross Foraging Group, walls made from carefully stacked plasterboard bricks, staircases hand carved from thick stacks of plywood offcuts, and elaborate arches of timber take their place along aubergine terrine, spiced fig chutney, and apricot brandy.

Conrad Koslowsky

The unit brief focused on Michel Foucault's Lecture, "Of Other Spaces, Heterotopias' (1967). This called for alternative readings of space that are networked, relational and cultural. London became our site for experimentation and proposition.

Conrad's keen observations and analysis of Kings Cross highlighted its resilience in the face of large scale master planning that ignores the spirit of the place. His journeys along the Caledonian Road and the back streets provided the ground for his research that promoted the contingent, interstitial and piecemeal as vital ingredients to Kings Cross development. The centrality of food and its network of relationships - the food chain - became the basis of his critical approach.

Conrad focused on the flip side of consumerism: waste and its destination. He began to seek and reclaim waste food that was still edible. Foraging in the backs of supermarkets, negotiations with grocers and takeaways became a way of life. As well as offering statistical data, this was also a lived experience - supplementing the pantry and providing a healthy diet. A dinner party based on reclaimed food was held in the AA and enjoyed by many.

This lived process became Conrad's means of developing an extended programme: a Food Foraging Organisation sited within the heart of a typical Kings Cross ‘collage’ block on the edge of Kings Cross Central. A hidden world of waste food collection, processing, redistribution and consumption is not treated as an earnest affair but is celebratory and hedonistic. Waste food becomes feast while the nearly fermented is transformed into liquor for the ‘bacchanal’, theatre and art happening.

Conrad has been both sensitive and radical in his approach. The opportunism at the heart of the programme is pursued throughout the project whereby the architecture is one of spatial re-use, material reclamation and bricolage intervention. The strength of the project is founded on careful research and thorough testing through drawings and prototypes. Its subtlety and approach to the interstitial and contingent address relevant contemporary issues. Conrad's project is imaginative, provocative, fun and totally do-able.


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