Date of Award
Master of Design (MDes) in Interior Studies / Adaptive Reuse
Eduardo Benamor Duarte
The architectural design of spaces offering food assistance has received little to no attention since food pantries emerged in the 1970s. Non-profit food initiatives are often sited quickly with limited resources, producing inadequate spaces unable to fully support a food insecure community, prioritize the experience of users, and create a sense of belonging. The current spaces limit services to merely food distribution. They do not take advantage of the opportunity to expand socioeconomic capital through the power of shared food experiences: growing, cooking, eating, and learning.
This thesis redefines the traditional food pantry model, responding to explorations in psychological comfort in architecture, food as a connector of people and place, the design of collective spaces, adaptability as a facilitator of user autonomy, and the approachability of the corner store typology. The thesis takes on a “hub and spokes” approach, in which one main food center providing storage, production, and service supports smaller fresh produce markets, community kitchens, and kitchen incubators. The approach is activated and contextualized through the reuse of corner stores in Winooski, Vermont, a food insecure, densely populated city with a large refugee community. In each host structure, empathetic and efficient architecture compensates for limited resources. Through a series of design principles, spaces of necessity are elevated into places of dignity, pride, and inclusion. This thesis utilizes a flexible modular design system—responsive to various needs and adaptable directly by the user—that can be implemented within a broad range of spatial configurations and building typologies. Iterations of the system can be used in both newly adapted spaces and within existing food initiatives. Due to its flexibility and responsiveness, it can be replicated to support food insecure communities across the country.
Barrett, Grace, "the people's food project" (2023). Masters Theses. 1166.
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