Students at the Dyson School of Engineering experienced an innovative residency that fused design with food to help tackle the climate crisis.
About fifty students from the Engineering course of innovation design – a joint master’s degree with the Royal College of the Arts (RCA) – went to Grymsdyke Farm in Buckinghamshire for a three-day residency. Based in Lacey Green, Grymsdyke Farm is a research center, manufacturing workshop, and living and working space for artists, designers and those interested in materials and manufacturing processes.
Locally sourced ingredients
The course, led by tutors from the Dyson School of Engineering and RCA, challenged eleven teams of students to create a dish for a climate-friendly feast for the year 2050. The students used local ingredients, especially beans, lentils, potatoes, spices. , eggs, milk, honey and flour. The teams were given a single ingredient on which to base their dish, such as cavalo nero, butternut squash and seaweed that had been brought back from the Kent coast.
Tim Corvin, course tutor from CAR, said: “The mandate we set for the students was to create dishes for the climate emergency – the 1.5 degree limit that we are trying to reach under the Paris protocol. It will be very difficult to achieve if we do not start to worry about the sustainability of our food production. The goal was therefore to create pieces that respect our environment and help people understand what is possible in a sustainable kitchen.
Students spent time with local organic farmers to understand sustainable agriculture. Imperial Guardian Audrey Gaulard explains why it was so important: “We want to show them how we feed people, how things grow. Everything takes time. Everything is a lot of work. We want to make sure they understand where our food comes from. It is really important that they understand the full cycle of the food industry before they conceive.
In addition to creating the dishes, the students had to make the materials needed to serve and eat the dishes. They had access to materials such as clay, wood, metal, rubber, stone, moss, plants and bark as well as a kiln, laser cutting, hand tools and a robotic arm.
Hemal Dias, an innovation design engineering student, said: “It definitely encouraged me to be more resourceful and creative. I like the idea that everyone has different materials and you have to work with what you have – you can’t Amazon deliver something for tomorrow. If anything, it made us do cooler and more creative things.
Chefs in Residence
“By working with food, you have so many different senses and feelings – the texture, the color of the food and the sound of the food when you eat it. ” Chefali Bohra Innovation Design Student
The students were supported by three chefs-in-residence who provided basic training and were on-site to advise and provide expert advice during the design phase. This included helping the students know which plants they could safely add to their dishes.
The final dishes on the vegetarian tasting menu included an oyster shell filled with boiled seaweed broth and vegan caviar topped with crisp artichoke and caramelized sugar. Annie nichols, Food Chef at Haeckels, was one of the resident chefs and a final menu judge. She explained, “It’s amazing what they’ve created. For a lot of people who aren’t even cooks, they’ve created some amazing dishes.
Design for the future
Dr Elena Dieckmann said: “Sustainability is an increasingly important part of design, and as course tutors it is really important that we present sustainable thinking and practices to our students. They are the designers and problem solvers of the future and they will feel the impact of the climate crisis more than any generation before them.
“The Innovation Design Engineering course has many international students, which means we have a real fusion of different cultures and different ideas. Exposure to different ways of thinking and doing things means that our students learn to work collaboratively to develop a common vision, which of course are also essential skills as we work together to protect our planet.
Find out more
Joint Engineering of Innovation and Design has been around for 40 years, and graduates receive an MSc from Imperial and MA from the Royal College of Arts. Applications are currently being accepted for the 2022 course. More information is available on the Imperial and RCA websites.
Video and photos: Joël Trotter