The Architecture of Ketosis

Thesis Project

A year long project completed in the final year of my Masters at the Royal College of Art.

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Is it possible to restrain our current culture of excess and shift our attitudes about the indispensable nature of our resources?

 

“The Architecture of Ketosis” challenges the conventions around the social practice of dining, questioning whether the increasingly universal perception of food as an abundant commodity can be transformed so that we can instead place more value in its role as a resource that is vital both fundamentally for our existence and as a tool for uniting communities.

In the early 1990’s, Yoshinori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the process of cell degradation and recyclability using experiments with yeast. The process known as autophagy (which literally translates to self-eating) is a vital mechanism necessary for survival. Whilst the body uses this process regularly, is it known that the results of autophagy can be maximised exponentially when undertaking a period of restricted food consumption. 

To counteract a growing consumption-crisis, the project aims to reinstate a culture that encourages fasting to become an integral part of everyday life. The intervention takes the form of a precise “ceremony of abstinence” in which a new consumerist investigation seeks to control how architecture can create the guidelines that will inspire a society that performs everyday acts based on the qualities of restraint.

Following a specific code of conduct within the ceremony, participants will be encouraged to consider the resources they consume in order to deflect energy sources back into stimulating cognitive and healing functions. Specifically, the project questions whether the biological processes of ketosis and autophagy–triggered by the act of fasting–can become the manifestation of the design.

To challenge existing consumer rituals and write a new language of restricted food consumption, the project locates itself in Houston, Texas – labelled the “dining out capital” of the United States; this typical hard-working American city provides valuable insight into the Western culture of superfluous dining. By locating the project in a city that was built upon the discovery of an abundance of natural resources (oil, natural gas) all of which are vital for supporting the modern city, it can instead challenge whether an architecture which spatialises the practice of restriction and precise rituals can provide an alternative platform for participants to take time to collectively self-discipline and revalue the simple necessities in their lives, collectively providing a new energy for the city to thrive on. 

The performance of these ceremonious fasting rites has been informed by research into specific consumerist rituals by the established etiquette of cultures in Asia, Europe and South America. This performance is achieved in four stages to allow for a successful bodily acclimatisation; a guest reception, induction period, fasting ceremony and debrief period. Furthermore, to inform the design decisions, a “chronotype” material experimentation focused on the process of transformation and adaptation with experiments formed using by-products of food such as skins and shells, normally deemed “inedible”. By repurposing unused and frequently wasted resources, the “chronotype” has not only inspired the new language of the fasting ritual but furthermore challenges participants to consider the impact of their attitude towards the ease of disposal and the concept of regeneration via alternative uses.

 

Ultimately, the project aims to encourage a society that places a much greater and more carefully considered value on both the resources that sustain it as well as our collective interactions. 

Laura Duffey