Burton Nitta’s speculative design project

 Hints at the future of food

Food porn Image © BurtonNitta

Food porn, image © BurtonNitta

Technology has long influenced what we eat and how we see food; the appearance of our diet is often just as important as how our food tastes, but what is the future relationship between technology and food and what might it evolve into?

One London design studio, Burton Nitta, is critiquing the potentials of culinary endeavours and how speculative design projects can give us insight into the future of food.

‘Burton Nitta’ consists of designers Michael Burton and Michiko Nitta who met and began their career at the Royal College of Art. For 8 years the pair has created a range of speculative design projects including Algae Opera House and The Abandoned Biobot, which speculate a dystopian future filled with wondrous and weird technologies. Burton Nitta’s work is an example of how design has gone beyond solely focusing on product aesthetics and instead focuses on problem-solving approaches which can be used by a wider audience.

Algae Opera House, image © Burton Nitta

Algae Opera House, image © Burton Nitta

Abandoned biobot, , image © Burton Nitta

Abandoned biobot, image © Burton Nitta

One of their latest projects- Food Fictions provides a window into our future relationship with food, and the possibilities of what technology might result in. Food Fictions is a collaborative project with King’s College London and explores how technology and social media alters our behaviour with food: from our political views to how we define ourselves by what we eat.

The project is formed of four parts: Food Porn, Lunar Potato, Vegan Bodybuilding and Stellar Cow, each of which explores how our relationship with food might evolve in unexpected directions.

The first course is ‘Food Porn’ which is an assemblage of various food, from different cultures, unusually placed together. Foods thought of as waste products such as fish heads are placed with colourful ‘food porn’ such as candy floss and a range of fruits.

The strange assembly of food critiques research from the University of Oxford which suggests that sharing images of food increases cravings. But, as Burton Nitta illustrate, exploring food via photography gives us an appreciation of what we eat and encourages us to be more adventurous. Food Porn queries whether altering our food’s appearance can change society’s outlook on certain foods and whether food design could lead to healthier and more sustainable diets.

Food porn, image © Burton Nitta

Food porn, image © Burton Nitta

‘Lunar Potato’ is the second course which investigates how food narratives are influenced by politics. Inspired by the photo of Theresa May eating a chip on the street, BurtonNitta explores how potatoes have been used to connect with a wider demographic and how subliminal political messages can be conveyed by using certain foods.

In China, scientists have launched a lunar mission to grow potatoes on the moon to see if the food could sustain a future human colony. ‘Lunar Potato’ envisages the foods created from the first potato crop grown on the moon and critiques the politics of such endeavours.

Lunar Potato, image © Burton Nitta

Lunar Potato, image © Burton Nitta

The third course is ‘Vegan Bodybuilding’ which explores bodybuilders’ alternative diets. The project is an interview with personal trainer and vegan Ondrej Matej who asserts that a vegan diet for bodybuilders  improves mood, increases muscle mass and makes the body leaner.

Vegan Bodybuilding, image © Burton Nitta

Vegan Bodybuilding, image © Burton Nitta

‘Stellar Meat’ is the fourth course which investigates the impact of biotechnologies such as CRISPR on our past and future relationship with what we eat.

In 1741 the stellar sea cow lived on Commander Island and having got a taste for its almond-flavoured meat, within 27 years humans had made the animal extinct . Burton Nitta’s Stellar Meat course suggests that biotechnology might allow an opportunity to grow and taste foods that were once eaten pre-extinction.

Stellar meat, image © Burton Nitta

Stellar meat, image © Burton Nitta

These proposals, otherworldly as they are, equip us with an understanding of how speculative design allows us to see how technology influences everyday habits such as our diets. In particular, critical design projects like Burton Nitta’s Food Fictions give insight into how the creation of fictional scenarios help designers fabricate potential future experiences.

Words: Anna Marks 


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