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Space, craft and the power of perception

Exofood is a futuristic retail and laboratory space in Thailand, designed by Space+Craft to alter how people view alternative food sources—namely, insects.

The issue of food sustainability is a most pressing one, and vertical farming in an urban context has fast become a viable and significant part of the solution. One start-up in Bangkok, however, is offering a different take on this.

Exofood Thailand is championing protein-rich insects as a source of sustenance and challenging human perceptions of what is edible. Along a row of shophouses on Bangkok’s Pechakasem Road sits Exofood Thailand’s retail and laboratory space which houses a “vertical farm” of insects—namely Dubia roaches, black soldier flies and crickets.

Here, insects are sold as food for pets, while research is simultaneously conducted to isolate protein from insects with an eye towards human consumption. Popping an insect or two as a midday snack is not unfamiliar in Thailand. But according to Space+Craft, the designers behind Exofood Thailand’s retail and laboratory space, it’s not a cultural norm in this day and age. Certainly, the idea of eating roaches is hardly palatable, not least because of how it is seen to be unsanitary.

Exofood Thailand’s futuristic and almost clinical space is a direct and most intentional counter to this. The space extols tidiness and cleanliness as key tenets and the design is economical in every sense of the word.

“The budget to redo this space was quite tight so [we] came up with the idea of using cheap and simple construction materials and applied them to the design in new ways in order to create an interesting interior space,” shares Space+Craft.

Vertical shelves ordered by metal-zinc C-line frames and accented by youthful pops of neon make like an open vault, with treasure taking the form of insects housed in clear boxes. A hefty multi-tasking stainless steel counter extends down the length of the shophouse space. It is the key apparatus in the space and is where Exofood Thailand’s team attends to customers, pores over research and tests, and conducts educational workshops for the public.

The budget constraint led them to using fluorescent linear tubes, which are arranged in rows and alternated with polycarbonate panels to conceal them from the front of the shop. The practical solution led to poetic expression overhead and an atmospheric lucency to the sparely furnished space.

At its core, Exofood Thailand’s store is an experiential white paper that seeks to not just inform, but persuade the public about the virtues of consuming critters for nutrition. For the start-up company, the space is a crucial vehicle for telling its story and bringing others along on its explorative journey towards a viable alternative food source.

Photography by Santana Petchsuk

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