I rarely ever think about refrigeration and its effect on society, but for Nicola Twilley it seemed like a hot topic! So I like my fridge? YES! Cold storage is incredibly convenient, and, especially when living in a dorm, very nice to have. But that’s a tiny fridge, and I knew those existed – who knew that the mega fridge was such a big thing? It kind of makes sense, when you think about it, that to get the year round consistency of food that we have, much of needs to be shipped and stores in a cold place. But what is potentially more profound than the massive scale and ability this gives us to feed a population, is the cultural revolution it has created. As Nicola noted, we have gone from seeing refrigerators in the same light as GMOs, to seeing them as the purveyor of freshness and home of quality. We now have this idea that anything that needs to be refrigerated must be fresh and natural because it has not been augmented to last outside of one. I also found the point about wet aging vs dry aging intriguing, because it was again an example of a cultural shift generated by this technology, and something we don’t generally think of at the dinner table. Dry aging is pretty much what you were stuck with before refrigeration, and now it’s the fancy thing you see on menus in the restaurant! And this, quite indirectly, leads to what might be less great about refrigeration. Obviously that includes energy use, waste from buying too much, and use of harmful chemicals.
The technology of large scale refrigeration has changed the landscape of countries – literally. And this is kind of a transition into what Geoff Manaugh talked about after, which I want to touch on briefly. Reflecting on this “Landscape Futures” talk, I began thinking about what roads of the future might look like. Right now asphalt is put down for us to drive cars on, which in some ways means that they aren’t designed directly for human, but for a piece of technology that we use. Going a step further, what does a road, as a piece of architecture or part of a landscape, become when we no longer need to drive. Self-driving cars are here already, eventually it is conceivable that we won’t even have the ability to drive, and roads will be even more focused on the car. After all, a machine doesn’t need lad markers or visible signs like humans, there are other mechanisms that a self-driving car could more efficiently use. Eventually a self driving truck will be able to deliver a fridge to me!
Landscape architecture was a large theme of his talk, and there was one excellent insight that got my attention. When I normally think of landscape altered by human technology, I often think of landscape scarred by something industrial, but in this case we have technology making a water mill obsolete, and therefore, landscape architecture is induced by the new absence of something.
So now, maybe that field over there is filled with a mega fridge complex, built and designed for robots to maintain, or its just a ‘natural field’, freed of its burden by the ability to refrigerate.