Food, food culture, food as culture and the cultures that grow our food

Will swap saliva for a home, the problem with bird nest soup

April 4, 2006

image from Hoko Studio design collaborative, cropped and used entirely without permission

If you were a bird living in a cave in Thailand, would you rather
1. live in a house of your own making constructed from spit and twigs?
2. live in a gifted house made out of recycled cardboard?

Bad question. Here comes a better one.

If your house was under threat of confiscation, would you rather
1. be given a house built out of recycled cardboard?
2. be left to your own devices to emotionalise enough angry bile and spit to produce a new casa de saliva?

It may be yesterday’s news to some, but I was surprised to read that swiftlets are suffering forced eviction due to gourmand greed! Swiftlets are the little birds whose nests are prized for bird nest soup. Some varieties of Thai swiftlet construct nests comprised of 80% lugie! Homelessness seems like a poor reward for resourcefullness.

image from Hoko Studio design collaborative, cropped and used entirely without permission

Design collaborative Hoko Studio has a partial solution. And by ‘partial’, I mean partial. Use birdhouses to package and distribute the nests. When the cook is done leaching the saliva out of the nest, the customer can hang the packaging on a tree (or high up in a cave in Thailand) and commence slurping with a partially clean conscience!

Partial solutions are only half the beauty of critical design.

image from Hoko Studio design collaborative, cropped and used entirely without permission

Hoko Studio’s proposal titled ‘Eat Bed’ is one of several ‘critical design’ projects exhibited at the Platform 21 website under the title, Positive Alarm (fixing what is wrong without making it wronger). Platform 21 is a newish venue for design situated in Amsterdam’s newish city center, de Zuidas, (pronounced South Central).

Here’s the Platform 21 culture blurb: ‘the domain of creation is not something professionals have a monopoly on. We are interested in creative developments in fashion and design, including amateur initiatives.’

Huh. Platform 21 does seem like an OK initiative, although their website is probably the most annoying surf you’ll have this week. Indeed a platform for Dutch and international design initiatives has been sorely missing ever since the nest known as the Vormgevings Instituut (pronounced Netherlands Design Institute) was confiscated by barbaric xenophobes back in the ’90’s. Maybe Platform 21 will provide a new place for design to alight. The director is ethnic Dutch, always a good starting point. Soup is on!

debra at 20:58 | | post to

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