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Food, colors and urban places María Mercedes ÁVILA Institute of Color - Faculty of Architecture, Town Planning and Design National University of Córdoba - Argentina

AIC 2010 Color and Food, Mar del Plata, Argentina, 12-15 October 2010


Preliminary considerations The clear trend towards a global city, a virtual city of flows and no-places invites us to observe carefully the image of the urban man and his insertion in the present urban condition. In this way some issues are developed: the perception of urban environments, the chromatic treatment of its components and the resulting importance of color in the promotion of city and urban life experience. We witness a rapid change of urban territories and places related to great technological revolutions which have brought about the prevalence of flows over places.


In view of the miracles of the virtual and the numeric revolution, many predicted the idea of an end of life in the city and its places. According to Mongin (2005) exactly the opposite is taking place: a re -configuration of the city, the rescue of urban places and appreciation of urban environments to reinforce an identity.

Millennium Park - Chicago


This paper states the value of food sale in outdoor urban markets because of the expressive and communicative functions of the language of color and the promotion of enjoyable experiences that collaborate with the construction of urban places. The South Sea Port – Manhattan - New York


Color and return to urban places The place is related to the concept of existential space (Bollnow 1963), which means that a space becomes a place when man makes it meaningful by inhabiting it, really experiencing its qualities and potentials. This space is the result of an interaction between man and the environment that surrounds him where it is impossible to dissociate the organization of the perceived universe from the activity itself that takes place there

Rockefeller Centre Square – Manhattan - New York


Therefore the space is a necessary part of the structure of existence, which involves an abstract topological or geometrical aspect described by Piaget and the reception of concrete surrounding elements that qualify it. Norberg Schulz exemplifies it stating that man does not simply roam without objectives but that he acts in relation to known centers, directions and areas.

Columbus Circle – Manhattan - New York


When these diagrams become concrete in the city with the experience of surrounding elements, qualified by the expression and meaning of themselves, man feels in his center, oriented, willing to experiment, identify and evoke these urban environments.

Sculpture of Noguchi – Wall Street area


The globalized present city poses contradictions: we move from a first paradox of the urban, a limited space that allows unlimited practices, to a second paradox an unlimited space, the virtual one, which permits limited and segmented practices. Within the context of this urban condition which the human condition is not exempt from, different sociologists propose the return to the heideggerian Place (Heidegger 1951).

Louise Nevelson Plaza – Wall Street area


The perceptive space is essential for his identity as an individual and the existential space makes him belong to a cultural and social whole. (Bollnow 1963). In that context, the expressive power of color, being polysemic and multi-sensorial, becomes a powerful communication tool Noguchi´s Cube – Wall Street area


Urban Place and Color in food street markets

Regional home-made food market Las Rosas Square - C贸rdoba - Argentina


According to Canter, place is a very rich concept which allows the connection of different disciplines so as to understand the way the inhabitant uses and interprets his city; besides it makes us notice the structure of the cognitive systems related to the environment.

Food market Las Rosas Square - C贸rdoba - Argentina


That is why an urban place is constructed in close relation to the user麓s possibility to participate actively with all its components

Las Rosas Square C贸rdoba Argentina


Urban Place and color in food street markets A street is not only a direction but a living environment when this turns into a giant urban window that encourages urban life.

Street market and foods in pedestrian area - Estambul - Turkey


The food sale in street markets encourages multiple psycho-social experiences, promotes attitudes, conducts‌

Street market and foods in pedestrian area - Estambul - Turkey


‌ behaviors and actions which are linked to communicative and expressive functions of color and the food in question.

Street market and foods in pedestrian area - Estambul - Turkey


Street market and foods in pedestrian area - Estambul - Turkey


Color, being easily recognized, is a perceptive element to catch attention, distinguish and identify food within an image

Street food market – Málaga – Spain


It is also used to structure a space and show itineraries. It is used as a sign or mark to highlight functional elements or codify street information..

Itineraries in the Park of La Alameda - MĂŠxico DF


It reliably describes what food is like, its expressive and meaningful qualities. That is to say, color gives information about food condition. Fully saturated colors easily remind us of the food in question because of its chroma or hue.


The color of food displayed in street markets creates certain environments: warm, cold, luminous, dark, vibrant, loud, dynamic or stimulating ones among others.

Street vegetable´s market in Torres - RS - Brazil


At the same time, color establishes associations by acting as a code: the symbolically associated color is recognized by anyone and allows the recognition of ripe fruit, fresh vegetable or appetizing fresh food; it also enables us to distinguish between hot or cold or crispy or stale

Ravinnia Festival – Foods Market in Chicago


Being used as a component of space, color harmonizes or contrasts the food of the image in question, it can blend it in or divide it, unite or fragment it. The chromatic rhythm can speed up or slow down the reading of an image, providing order, regularity and control and structuring the image in an expressive, communicative way.

Fruits and vegetables in Broadway Ave. Upper west side - Manhattan - New York


Thus, the color of food in street markets establishes certain organizational principles in space so as to configure it and make the urban environment meaningful by expressing messages. If we consider the organizational principles of color such as focality, unity, balance, proportion and hierarchy and we add up the expressive and communicative possibilities of chromatic language‌‌

Local home-made food market in Puebla - MĂŠxico


‌.such as the contrast of pure colors, chiaroscuro, temperature, the optical contrast of complementary colors and the tendency to transformation or visual synesthesias, all applied to food‌.

Local home-made food market in Puebla - MĂŠxico


……we can notice this is a subtle instrument of promotion of conducts and behaviors in the urban inhabitant as regards how he uses the space.

Local home-made food market Puebla - México


Besides, color influences the nervous system because of its aesthetic value and the way it affects feelings. There are no impressions or emotions that cannot be represented by color. The two principles established by the Ancient Greek, melos and pathos, can be the base to create a whole expressive scale. (PĂŠrez Dolz 1980)

Food stands in the Quartier Latin - Paris


We can express the algedonic, painful, sad, tragic, pitiful or terrible and the related emotions are pathetic and disastrous. Roasted chestnuts in the Quartier Latin - ParĂ­s

On the contrary, the melodic concept of color is based on the hedonic, pleasant, sweet, agreeable, cheerful, happy and tender. Any emotion related to this is melodic, lyrical. Between these two opposite ends there is a large scale of possibilities that color is able to channel, even in the food displayed for sale.

Pastry stands in the Quartier Latin - Paris


All this exceeds the simple layout of goods displayed in the urban environment in question to become a driving fact of urban life by putting emphasis on the environmental cognitive processes (Ittelson 1973) that lead man to participate actively in the construction of urban environments

Quartier Latin – Paris -


Final considerations Color, with its iconic-linguistic potential, comes up as a leading factor in the insertion of human practices and experiences by means of the sale of food in street markets; it also contributes to define the Urban Place that Heidegger claimed as essential for the intrinsic definition of man and his living environment.

Typical food of the country market – Puebla - MÊxico

The multiplicity of opportunities to express the language of color by means of the street exhibition of food for sale allows the construction of that urban place where man finds his Center and can fully enjoy experiences.


Those are environments to be enjoyed, to be experienced with pleasure and great delight expressing a referential identity where the sense of the local, opposed to the global, is re-conquered giving or rescuing identities in the real city.

Local home-made food market in Las Rosas Square - C贸rdoba Argentina

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María Mercedes Avila (Argentina): Food, colors and urban places

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María Mercedes Avila (Argentina): Food, colors and urban places

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