Antwerp à la carte - on the future of food & the city

In short

Within the context of the expo ‘Antwerp à la Carte’, featured on the 5th floor of Antwerp’s iconic city museum (MAS, Museum aan de stroom), Pantopicon sheds a light on the future of food and the city. Three future worlds were created and translated into a tangible experience by means of ‘what if’ questions and a selection of speculative design works. Two animated cityscapes accompanied by a spoken narrative further immerse the visitor into what tomorrow might bring.


How can we engage the visitor to reflect on the future of food and its impact on the city? | What kind of systemic changes could arise in the food system and how would our cities look differently then? | What could that mean for citizens as well as the urban environment?

the project

Besides being one of Antwerp’s iconic landmarks, the “Museum aan de stroom” (MAS) is known as a cultural haven with a focus on collecting the traces of gathering and exchange central to a port city, and the stories through which these are told. Stories about the city, about the world in all its diversity and about the connection and meeting between both.

In 2016 – in honour of the MAS’ 5 year anniversary –  a new semi-permanent exposition ‘Antwerp à la Carte’ was set up. Pantopicon was approached to extend the historical overview provided by the exhibition with an outro engaging the audience in reflecting on what the future might bring in terms of the changing relationship between food and the city.

The historical part of the exposition has been curated by the MAS’ in-house curator Leen Beyers and her team. Pantopicon was invited to both curate and create content for an in-expo greenhouse, dedicated to future perspectives. The greenhouse was part of the scenography designed by our friends from FELT.

We started out by imagineering three future worlds: Fractal Commons, Augmentulitaria and Transhumania  featuring both factual and speculative content as a starting point for debate. All three worlds were constructed on the basis of a series of societal, technological and economic trends, of which the interplay raises new questions regarding the future of food production, logistics, trade, consumption, waste etc. in relation to the city.

Each world was then translated into a tangible experience, featuring a selection of speculative design works, an animated cityscape, a series of ‘what if’ questions and a spoken narrative.

Furthermore, two experts were interviewed, Prof. Theo Niewold (professor of Food & Health at the KULeuven’s Faculty of Bioengineering) and Prof. Pablo Tittonell (professor of Farming Systems Ecology at Wagening UR) of which the videos are featured in the exhibition as well.

Fractal Commons

After a chaotic period in which the neoliberal system increasingly began to show more cracks, a global commons  fractal network emerged as a countermeasure to systemic fragility. On an urban level, circular fabcities became the new reality in which holistic ecological awareness goes hand in hand with ethical biotechnological developments. Urban (food) systems are shaped by a philosophy in which creativity, organic imagery and sustainability play a central role. Local neighborhood-driven urban farming is embedded within a global system based on justice, while taking advantage of big data, open source and biosynthetic transport.


Both the functionality of and the experience of nutrition and food systems have become a priority in the circular city. In the Urban Farms – the central industrial ecoclusters of the city – production and distribution are largely automated and robotized, driven by technological advances in fields such as the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data, the Quantified Self … New energy-efficient transport systems such as the hyperloop, connect the city with the rest of the world as never before. This allowed the efficiency of  logistic processes to reach unprecedented heights. (Semi-) artificial nutrition has gained importance and has become an irrefutable part of the food system. Furthermore, advances in virtual reality brought the experience economy to a whole new level, while behind the façade of creative culinary experiences, the struggle for power and knowledge about nutrition and food systems takes place violently.


What transhumanists have been saying all along, proved to be correct: Moore’s law also applies to the pace at which science and technology develop. This led to the shaping of a world which one can hardly recognise from the perspective of the one we know today. Virtual reality, deep brain stimulation, … have broadened the scope of possible realities (VR, AR, MR etc.), reducing the need for food for virtualizers to the bare minimum. Partly driven by biosynthetic developments, posthumanism has gained a clear position, in which the ‘augmented’ live alongside and together with the ‘authentics‘.

The incredible shrinking man - ©Arne Hendriks

Human hyena - ©Paul Gong, photocredit: Andrew Kan

speculative design

A  selection of speculative design works was curated to render the future worlds more tangible as well as to place the artworks in a context that would inspire the visitor to assess and engage with the possible futures presented in a more integrated way.

Cityscape elements ©Pantopicon

animated cityscapes

Visualising the impact of the future world and food system on the city is made possible through means of animated cityscapes. Some of the underlying questions who steered the exploration: how will the future food system impact the city? What consequences might it have in terms of production, consumption, waste? Any new types of elements we might find there?


The Future Greenhouse
A selection and presentation of content, curated and designed as part of Antwerp à la Carte, a new semi-permanent exposition on food and the city at MAS (Museum aan de Stroom).
Future cityscapes
A set of future cityscapes were rendered tangible as video narratives with a voiceover provided through soundspot technology as to immerse people in a possible world ahead.
Guided tours
During events such as Museum Night (August 2016) we will immerse visitors in the future worlds of food & the city, the questions raised as well as the foresight and design methodologies used in bringing the future worlds and debates to life.
Interested in a private guided tour for your organization? Do not hesitate to contact us.