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Photograph  © Erroll Jones

Biography

Carolyn Steel MA Cantab, Dip. Arch RIBA

Carolyn Steel is a leading thinker on food and cities. She is the author of the award-winning Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives (2008) and Sitopia: How Food Can Save the World (2020). Her concept of sitopia, or food-place (from the Greek sitos, food + topos, place) has gained broad recognition across a wide range of fields in design, ecology, academia and the arts. 

Carolyn studied architecture at Cambridge University with Dalibor Vesely, Peter Carl and Eric Parry and subsequently taught with all three before running her own design studios at Cambridge and at London Metropolitan University. In 1989, she joined Cullum and Nightingale Architects (now Kilburn Nightingale Architects), becoming a non-executive director in 2005. Carolyn has completed several major buildings with the practice, including the Embassy Theatre for the Central School of Speech and Drama. In 1995-6, Carolyn was a scholar at the British School at Rome, where she studied the everyday life of the Rione S. Angelo (the fish market and Jewish quarter), publishing her work as The Mundane Order of the City in the Cambridge Architecture Journal Scroope.

In 1998, Carolyn became the inaugural Studio Director of the London School of Economics Cities Programme. She began researching the relationship between food and cities in 2000, and from 2002-2012 gave a lecture series on Food and the City at Cambridge University School of Architecture, the first of its kind. In 2008 she published her first book, Hungry City, which won the Royal Society of Literature’s Jerwood Award for Non-Fiction and was chosen as a BBC Food Programme book of the year. In 2009, The Ecologist magazine profiled Carolyn as a ‘21st Century Visionary' and her 2009 TED talk, given at the first TEDGlobal in Oxford, has gained more than one million views.

From 2010-13, Carolyn was a visiting lecturer and researcher at the Rural Sociology Department of Wageningen University in the Netherlands. In international demand as a speaker, she has lectured widely on food and the city, including at the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy and the Harvard Graduate School of Architecture. In addition to numerous appearances in the UK and abroad, Carolyn has collaborated with a number of cities and institutions including the Oxford Food Symposium, of which she is a trustee, Stroom den Haag (The Hague), The City of Groningen and the MAS Museum in Antwerp, where her work inspired the new permanent exhibition, Antwerp à la Carte.