--Clockwise from left: Rungis, Paris; Desruction of Les Halles, Paris; Baltard's Pavilions at Les Halles; Central de Abasto, Mexico City; Hunts Point, The Bronx.
Alimentary Logistics: Planning the Food Wholesale Landscape in New York, Paris, and Mexico City
Food has become a major part of transcontinental and transoceanic networks of production, circulation, storage, and distribution. In this way, both perishable and non-perishable foods have become woven into an interconnected web of global capitalist commodity chains. Novel spatial and architectural forms have emerged over time to accommodate these changing food systems, from the small open-air farmers' market in the town square to the grand covered pavilions of Les Halles and the massive wholesale complexes that cropped up around the globe after World War II. Meanwhile, technological developments in agriculture, transportation, and merchandising have led to an industrial scale transformation of our food system through factory farms, the expanding cryosphere of cold storage, petroleum-dependent haulage, conglomeration of firms,
and the rise of the supermarket. Seasons disappear as we grow
increasingly attenuated from the origins of the food that we eat.
Joseph Heathcott, examines the transformations in "alimentary
logistics" over the past 200 years, with emphasis on developments
since World War II in New York, Paris, and Mexico City. There is of course a long history of markets not only as arenas of social and material exchange, but also as technologies of spatial control by constituent powers. Trajan's great purpose-built market was as much a convenience for buying and selling food as it was a space for the surveillance of a restive population and the display of imperial power. The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul emerged through successive Ottoman regimes as a program to consolidate and tax the trade of various goods, including food and spices. Municipal markets such as those in New York City took shape in the first decades of the twentieth century amid Progressive reform agendas in city planning, public health, and policing. Though differing dramatically over time, all of these purpose-built markets have in common the legitimation of governmental power through architecture, urban space, and material flows.
--Left to right: Trajan's market, Rome; Grand Bazaar, Istanbul; ABC of City Planning, New York City.
The primary focus of the study, then, is on markets as a form of alimentary logistics. By this we mean the array of technologies, land forms, and infrastructure that organizes the circulation of food. We are especially interested in the reorganization of urban space through demolition, clearance, zoning, and relocation episodes geared toward transforming how food moves into and through cities. Such episodes not only reveal the shifting biopolitical landscape of food, they also have consequences for who lives and works in central cities, as officials clear out working-class people and jobs from the urban core to make way for 'higher and better' uses. Our project takes a close look at these transformations as they reshape both the global food system as well as urban spatial production in New York, Paris, and Mexico City.