Pierre Herme "Architecture of Taste" with Sanford Kwinter and Savinien Caracostea
Harvard Graduate School of Design - November 27th, 2012
photos: Yusuke Suzuki


Good evening, my name is Savinien Caracostea, I am an M.Arch II student here at the GSD. It is my pleasure to introduce Pierre Herme tonight, as this event has been in planning since January. After my undergraduate studies in Architecture, I completed a six month Pastry program at the French Culinary Institute in New York. This exposure to both fields allowed me to perceive the architectural nature of Herme's work, as the perfection of his finished products conceal the process that brought them into being.

Recently - and partly because of the work of chefs such as Pierre Herme - the edible has been recognized as a new medium of cultural expression, imagination, and invention. While numerous attempts to uncover food's relationship to other arts have been made in the past, such as the manifesto by the celebrated seventeenth century pastry chef, Antonin Careme, who stated that "the most noble of all the arts is Architecture, and its greatest manifestation is the art of the pastry chef" - or in the avant-garde, the Futurist Cookbook appearing in the early 30s composing sensorial poetry through food, our new understandings of design and its unified nature across disciplines allows us today to recognize an Architecture of Taste.

With the boundaries between music, film, art, and technology blurring, Architecture - in dealing with constructions and associations - holds a special place within this amalgamation of disciplines. Its grammar and socio-cultural vectors are present in a spectrum of fields that far exceed those of the built environment, allowing architecture to transcend illusionary demarcations between branches of design and to cultivate adjacencies.

Tonight's event, through the highly sophisticated work of Pierre Herme, is an exploration of Architecture outside of its classic boundaries and of Taste as a new spatial medium. As, in a contemporary move, our visually dominated society renews its interest in the culinary, more ambiguities arise as we experience the world from within, discovering an inner subjective world. A realization of Taste's potential would give renewed importance to the body by bringing a culture which currently tends towards virtualization to its senses. Paradoxically, pastries can be understood as the most cinematic of foods. More constructed, containing in each bite a montage of several distinct layers and textures, time seems to dilate when eating a pastry, as if we were experiencing it 24 times a second.

By being more cinematic, pastries are also more architectural. It is perhaps for this reason that pastry shops have more easily found their way into fashion and design, and that Pierre Herme's work is important to us today.

Through Herme's associations and constructions of Tastes, iterating and reinterpreting them across several types of desserts, implicit characters and narratives manifest themselves and evolve from season to season as one pans across the display case of his boutiques - laid out linearly, as frames from a proto-cinematic film. The abstract forms of the pastries evoke facial features, and names such as "Ispahan" and "Mogador" further personify them while referencing distant geographies anchored in our collective imaginary.

In this scale-less cinematic realm, pastries are buildings just as buildings are pastries. Since the paintings on the undulating walls of Paleolithic caves, representing the hunted animals, Art and Architecture, when combined, have relied on a more primal beauty - the edible. Tales such as Hansel and Gretel illustrate this amalgam through their representation of the house that is eaten, but which also eats, through its stove. Dali, when describing Art Nouveau architecture as "Terrifying and Comestible", raises this surrealist ambiguity - buildings are both edible and carnivorous as we enter the mouth of the cave. Could this symbolic and oneiric dimension of architecture, present in cinema like in pastry, not be digesting us through a form of Architecture of Taste?

Today, with the pastry kitchen and the fabrication lab converging into one another, technology, as always, acts as precursor to social and cultural advances. Parametric processes, like recipes, in their attempt to re-imagine architectural production, can be seen as a return to Pastry, as rhythms, patterns, and emotions are folded and simulated through form before being baked into existence.[...]

Amongst the few to mention Architecture when describing his creative process, Pierre Herme was very open to the idea of giving a lecture at the Graduate School of Design when I first approached him in January. His rigorous and sensible understanding of his work and his ability to address larger design concerns within his discipline made it clear that it was urgent to invite him to the School to introduce with this lecture, the "Architecture of Taste".[...]

Please join me in welcoming Pierre Herme to the GSD.