The Notion of Food Surplus Shaping the Urban Landscape: A Historical Analysis through the Work of Paul Veyne and Rem Koolhaas

By Andrea Bosio.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The paper considers the notion of surplus as a collective benefit linked to the food production and consumption system, influencing the transformations of the urban conglomerates—densely populated places characterized by intense commercial and political activities—and the lives of people living within. It aims to analyse it through a historical comparison of the thesis of Paul Veyne, who explores, in his book “Bread and Circuses” (1976), the notion of Greek and Roman Euergetism as a form of collective pride generating public benefits, and the contemporary analysis of Rem Koolhaas in “Project on the City 2: Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping” (2001), who assimilates the modern notion of surplus to shopping, a consuming process dramatically influencing the contemporary era and shaping the modern landscape. According to the assumption that space and food contribute to the specificity and recognisability of a place, both ancient Euergetism and the modern concept of shopping generate urbanity. While in antiquity, according to Veyne, consumption played an active role as a social, economic, and political force through the habit of gift giving. Today, according to Koolhaas, the consumer has lost his rights towards the products, becoming a passive receiver in a world that no longer needs him to be perpetuated. Following the cultural approach of Paul Veyne, who considers history as the sum of its economic, social and environmental aspects, the methodology of the French sociologist Michel de Certeau, who considers ordinary people as creative entities within a social system, and the theories on consumption of Pierre Bourdieu, who sees in consumption the duality of material goods and the symbolism of a cultural capital, the paper aims to trace a common line between the past and the present on the topic, considering the consumer as the main protagonist involved in the transformation of the space through the action of consuming food surplus.

Keywords: Architecture, History of Architecture, Cultural History, History, Food Production and Consumption, Food Studies, Sociology

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.71-82. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 733.717KB).

Mr Andrea Bosio

PhD Student, Faculty of Environment, School of Architecture, Griffith University, Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Andrea Bosio is a PhD student studying at the Faculty of Environment at Griffith University. His research investigates the relationships between food culture and the transformations of the environment linked to food production and consumption. His studies deal with interdisciplinary discourses involving architecture, gastronomy, social science, and linguistics. He completed his Bachelor and Master of Architecture at Milano Politecnico in Italy and worked in various Italian architecture firms in Italy before coming to Australia.