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Cultivating Faith: the feeding of the 59,000

Royal College of Art, 2009

Fifty years hence we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately.”
Winston Churchill, 1936

Recent advances in tissue engineering look set to make Churchill’s vision commercially plausible within the next decade, forcing many to question society’s accepted norms. After all, science has already provided answers to many of the biblical miracles – creation, transfiguration, immaculate conception, resurrection – exacerbating an increasing loss of faith in the primacy of the Church.

Concurrently, the food industry is becoming increasingly subject to religious influence, with the value of global Halal food production now at £300 billion annually. Given this emerging conflict, is our pursuit of genetic enhancement directly contradicted by our desire to retain traditional theist practice?

In light of an impending global food crisis, and an inevitable shortage of Halal meat in the UK, science turns its attention to the last remaining biblical miracle – the feeding of the masses. Located on a toxic wasteland in the heart of Newham, urban farming becomes manifest as the UK’s first commercial in vitro meat production facility.

Through an investigation into the inevitable acceptance of lab-grown meat this project questions: Can a reinterpretation of faith become a tool for the regeneration of London’s most deprived boroughs?

Intended as a critique of 21st century society’s tendency to adapt its system of values in order to fulfil its needs, this project is also (and more specifically) concerned with how different religious groups have been forced to reinterpret religious practice in order to retain their traditional beliefs.

Located on Beckton Alp - a post-industrial landscape formed through the demolition of the old Beckton Gasworks, this new ‘Site of Pilgrimage’ is comprised of five main programmatic elements, each driven by a parable of Islamic faith, or a teaching of the Qur’an. Motivated by the cultivation of Halal produce, the site will immediately become a focus for pilgrimage [immigration] and will seek to foster greater religious tolerance through the successful integration of its transient occupants. In the process the facility will turn its once contaminated home into desirable land.

Modernism has instilled in us a deeply imbedded ideology that the role of Design and Architecture is to make the World a better place. Generally when architects design for tomorrow, they design for the perfect citizen never questioning their actual motivations or desires.

In opposition to this, Tom Greenall embraces a society that selfishly adapts its value systems to maintain its status quo. Concentrating his investigations on Beckton in East London, he uses his project to pose a simple question too often ignored by architects, “who really are the people we are designing our infrastructures for? And what will their values be?” Teetering between fiction and reality, Tom grapples with an everyday reality of a society saturated with contradiction and dilemma.

His cautionary tale becomes a critical instrument for debate, and his open-ended speculation engages our imaginations. In contrast to existing masterplans, Tom’s project is not meant to be a prediction for the future, and is not meant to be about the new. It is intended as a critique of design and social values already in place

Tom’s project, by seductively framing social taboos, encourages us to consider our own value systems, and in so doing becomes in itself a tool for change.

Gerrard O’Carroll
© Thomas Greenall