The Past & Future Spaces of the Supermarket

Emma Campbell

An area mostly overlooked by architects, the relationship between food and cities is fundamental to our everyday lives. Food shapes cities, and through them, it moulds us as well as the countryside that is farmed to feed us. The rise of large scale, hyper-efficient industrialised food production – although it has generated more food, more cheaply than at any time in history – has reached a point of dangerously diminishing returns both economically and environmentally. Our system for producing, marketing and moving what we eat is growing less and less compatible with the billions of consumers that the system was built to serve. The supermarket is both symptom and cause of these conditions.

This research project investigates these relationships from an architectural and spatial perspective, exploring form, infrastructure and logistics through historical, environmental, ecological and cultural lenses. Through the unpacking of these layers, and how the process of supply chains of supermarkets operate, the spatialities of the supermarket’s past and present can be used as a means of unlocking what this might mean for its future.

Image: Piggly Wiggly Store, 1916.
This was the first ‘self-service’ store to open in the US. The plan, which controls both circulation and speed of customers, can be traced in the principles of current supermarket design.

A digital resource communicating the work of Architecture at Queen's University Belfast