Design for resilience at home: Integrating housing and regenerative food systems

Fountain, Wendy (2015). Design for resilience at home: Integrating housing and regenerative food systems. PhD thesis University of Tasmania.



At the core of this design research is the profound question of how to nourish, shelter and foster the well-being of our burgeoning population on earth, in a regenerative and equitable manner. Contemporary housing and food systems in Australia, as in many developed settings, are largely modernist legacies reflecting a bygone era of cheap and plentiful resources, and persistent anthropocentric perspectives disconnecting humans from our ecological dependencies. Viewed from a resilience perspective, dominant housing types and food system institutions are deeply implicated in widening 'ecological overshoot' and biospheric disruption, as are associated practices of design.

In response, I propose how housing and food systems can be integrated as an urban resilience strategy through a merger of ecological design research and resilience inquiry. The re-visioning of the homescape central to the thesis builds upon recent developments in urban agriculture, emergent 'productive housing', alternative food movements, and broader sustainable living strategies.

The design research approach, interrelating resilience strategies, practice theories, questions of type and participatory design, was conducted over three overlapping phases. Phase 1 ‚ - research into design ‚ - involved a social-ecological analysis of dominant food culture and domestic design centred on the kitchen, thereby establishing critical context for Phases 2 and 3. Phase 2 ‚ - research for design ‚ - comprised my ethnographic participation in 12 Tasmanian food-producing households, representing a range of density and tenure types. In Phase 3 ‚ - research through design ‚ - householders engaged in participatory design workshops to speculate how the home could better support their food producing practices. In this final phase, I also undertook design iterations in response to a design meta-brief synthesised from the Phase 2 and 3 participatory methods.

The resulting regenerative food axis design patterns address high-density, medium-density, inner urban, suburban and peri-urban housing, and are represented using schematic models and indicative spatial layouts. In these design outcomes, the kitchen-garden interface is illuminated as the catalyst of regenerative energy, water and nutrient cycles, in addition to important social functions. I follow with discussion of material and immaterial design considerations, scaling out from the kitchen-garden system to community-based alternative food networks.

Home-based food production is further located within a resurgence of homecraft, the know-how and making skills of which I highlight as complementary threads in enhancing urban resilience. In order to activate ecological restoration in our vast suburban tracts, I explore roles for design practice embedded within 'living labs' and grassroots networks. The thesis concludes with a strategic framework for integrating housing and regenerative food systems aimed at Australian design practice and design education, and for re-contextualisation in other developed and developing settings.

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