Time for an Urban(Re)evolution

by Anna Maria Orru

– Negotiating Body, Space and Food

Food occurs rhythmically and permeates a major part of everyday, it is rarely considered in urban design. This highlights a missing link in the food/time rapport with urban space and how the body relates to it, in which the concept of a cyclical process has been suppressed from the urban experience. In order to confront this, this paper explores and evaluates the artistic method of butoh. Butoh sheds light on how the inclusion of embodiment within imagineering can emphasize the timely aspect of urban space and food production as a cyclical process. Imagineering is a design technique that uses narrative to generate an imagined emergence of a concept. By placing the body at the centre of my methodology, I explore the negotiation it takes with time, space and food. I pose a question: How can the interaction of the body in butoh practice and food production, set in relation to one another, improve the understanding and handling of urban space where time becomes an aspect in design? My methodology is framed in micro and macro perspective lenses, where the butoh body is brought into the process of shaping urban environment through techniques such as: Rebellion, interaction, mimesis, agro-roots, transformation, metamorphosis and reflection. The micro lens is explored through the bodily choreography and detail of body technique in a butoh dance performance at the AHA festival in Gothenburg, Sweden. The macro lens is implementd in an experimental-making of an ecological living system and foodscape called ‘Paperscapes,’ which becomes the stage for that performance. These embodiments of making and performing induce imagineering, drawn from biomimicry, to enable an imagined emergence of another way of approaching urban green space. In deciphering the butoh body in its spatial to corporeal relationship, the Japanese spatio-temporal concept of ma – an interval, gap, opening, awareness – helps understand how temporal progression relies on space awareness, spatial progression relies on time, and the potential transformation which exists in this ‘interval’. The use of butoh exposes the landscape in an ‘circular-timed’ orientation and this sheds light on the transformation of everyday collective ‘rhythms’ and behaviour with food.


The foundation of Anna Maria Orru’s work is embedded in biomimicry, natural system design, food and in curating research, providing an innovative approach in the field of sustainable design, art, urbanism and architecture. She works as a connective tissue, working in the interstitial spaces between disciplines by bringing a variety of diverse disciplines and talents to the table to creatively tackle issues around climate change. Her projects, and ongoing phd research at Chalmers, cover the distinct topics of food, architecture, bodily engagement, senses and urbanism, explored through the study of organoleptic qualities and butoh dance in urban foodscapes as a way to explore food systems on both the macro and micro levels. She has been a lecturer and teacher at a number of Swedish Institutes since 2010.