Notes Information Apocalypse

A Utopia Without Ideals

The implications of Pig City by MVRDV are a sensory and ethical challenge - architecture that tests the fine line between social criticism and gritty realism.

If meat consumption was to stay at today's levels and purely organic farming methods were introduced, the pig industry would need 75% of the surface area of the Netherlands. But that's no real option. Is it therefore not possible to consolidate the entire pig farming industry into compact farm units, eliminating the need for transport and distribution and reducing the risk of spreading diseases? Pig City provides a radical answer to this question.

Pig city provides a direct answer to the problems of land use in intensive and extensive farming.

Either we change our consumption pattern and become instant vegetarians or we change the production methods and demand biological farming.

Moving from pastoralism to radical urban ecologies is here treated as simply a problem of optimizing energy. But what for the pigs? Human cities evolved through a complex interplay between centralization of markets and well trodden roads. There is no question that farming could be better integrated into urban environments if we are to control runaway energy use, pollution, and disease. But the Pig City is a closed system, and makes a reductionist statement that humans can control ecologies, reduce them to models, and reconstruct them in mimickry of existing patterns of consumption.

Seen for what it is, Pig City is a cartoon-like representation of today's situation and, unlike the secret bio-industry, makes no attempt to gloss over the consequences of our pattern of consumption. The presentation, for that matter, is so lifelike that many read it as a realistic alternative.

There are no black and white answers, but at least by exploring meat production in a holistic and systematic fashion, the architects have made a compelling story that forces us to question moral assumptions about farming and urban development. Does changing consumption patterns necessarily require a revolutionary flash of action, or can it be a gradual incremental process? Somewhere on the continuum between all meat and no meat, there is less meat.