Soil Kitchen is a temporary, windmill-powered architectural intervention and multi-use space where citizens enjoy free soup in exchange for soil samples from their neighborhood. Placed across the street from the Don Quixote monument at 2nd Street and Girard Avenue in North Philadelphia, Soil Kitchen inhabits an abandoned building and places a windmill atop to pay homage to the popular windmill scene in Cervantes’, Don Quixote. Rather than being “adversarial giants” as they were in the novel, the windmill at Soil Kitchen is a functioning symbol of self-reliance and literally breathing new life into a formerly abandoned building. The windmill also serves as a sculptural invitation to imagine a potential green energy future and to participate in the material exchange of soil for soup – literally taking matters into one’s own hands. This exchange provides an entry point for further dialogue and action available in the space through workshops, events and informal exchange. Soil Kitchen provides sustenance, re-established value of natural resources through a trade economy, and tools to inform and respond to possible contaminants in the soil.
Soil Kitchen was commissioned by Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy using a generous grant from the William Penn Foundation. Soil Kitchen coincided with the 2011 Environmental Protection Agency’s National Brownfields Conference. Soil Kitchen offered free pH and heavy metal testing and produced a Philadelphia Brownfields Map and Soil Archive. In addition to serving soup and testing soil, the building is a hub for exchange and learning; free workshops including wind turbine construction, urban agriculture, soil remediation, composting, lectures by soil scientists and cooking lessons.
Image and text: Future Farmers