A SMALL KITCHEN, WITH A BIG HEART.
Kitchen-O | Luis de Sousa Product Design May 2017
â€œWhen from the distant past nothing remains, after the beings have died, after the things are destroyed and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, yet more vital, more insubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of everything else; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the immense architecture of memory.â€? Marcel Proust
FIELDWORK Observations Interviews Indentifying Design Opportunities
7 8 14 38
DESK RESEARCH Exploring an Opportunity Housing in Different Cultures How do Refugees Live? Domestic Moments What Refugees Bring From Home From Furniture to Food Food as Empowerment
42 44 46 47 48 52 54 56
CONCEPT 1.0 - FROM COOKING TO KITCHEN Indentifying Moments Within Opportunities Initial Concept Concept Feedback Making a Kitchen Paper Prototypes
58 60 62 64 66 68
CONCEPT 1.1 - A DIGITALLY FABRICATED KITCHEN Manufacture & Stakeholders Cardboard Prototype
70 72 74
CONCEPT 1.2 - COOKING IS A RITUAL Cooking, Heritage, and Rituals Testing a Ritual Aesthetics Plywood Prototype Further Feedback The Four Elements of Cooking
78 80 82 84 88 90 91
PROTOTYPING Testing in CNC Scale Prototyping in CAD
92 96 98
FINAL PRODUCT Cooking is Empowerement Digital Discrimination Becomes Digital Fabrication Food is The Language Everyone Speaks
102 106 107 108
Kitchen-O is an open-source portable kitchen that brings cooking rituals back in to refugee centres, where people donâ€™t have the facilities to prepare their own food.
The centre is part of an old military base. The facilities are centrally heated and health & safety conditions are met, however it is old and in need of urgent renovation. Being a previous military building, the space lacks comfort and is quite austere overall. In the morning, the street and common spaces are usually empty, as people tend to wake up quite late in the day. As there is not much to do here, the inhabitants sleep for longer hours. There are different services available, such as the laundry room, the clothes shop, the childrenâ€™s play area, or the adult school. Currently there is also a plan to build a plot, as spring is finally coming.
People in the community gather here to get Wi-Fi, watch TV, read a magazine, or just spend time. There are tables, chairs, sofas, and a pool table, however it is noticeable that the space is not being regularly used. At the time of my visit, there were only three people, who were not interacting with each other. One of them was the father of Aurore and Rose (see interview, page 16). The two girls told me that lately he was feeling sad, as all the friends he made had already left the centre. Now he is alone and has no one to spend time with, apart from his own family.
It is through the children that one can actually access their families: they not only translate conversations, but also pave the way and set a relationship of trust.
As one would expect, there are many children in the centre. They attend local schools, and the younger ones have a nursery/kindergarten inside the centre. Out of school periods are spent in a small outdoor area with swings, or interior spaces, where they can watch TV cartoons, draw or play with toys. The children interact more with each other than their parents and other adults in general. School makes them learn a common language (in this case French), which they use to communicate between themselves. As youngsters, they lack a natural inhibition one develops as adult. Most kids are very friendly and willing to speak to anyone. It is through the children that one can actually access their families: they not only translate conversations, but also pave the way and set a relationship of trust.
The Laundry Room is managed by three people living in the premises, who are also asylum seekers. It is not self-service, and therefore the inhabitants just drop off their clothes to be washed and dried. They get tokens from the centreâ€™s reception, as means to control and limit a weekly amount of use of the facilities.
The rooms are spacious and well heated, yet they are shared by entire families, and therefore become the single private space they have in the centre. If people are alone, they have no other choice but to share it with others. Inside of each chamber, there are small beds, tables, and some people even have storage lockers.
During those visits, I noticed that people hang bedsheets vertically from the ceiling in order to create walls and divisions.
I also visited rooms that were being used at the time, however due to privacy issues in respect to my interviewees, I could not take any pictures of those spaces. During those visits, I noticed that people hang bedsheets vertically from the ceiling in order to create walls and divisions. Others also use the storage lockers as a divider. All personal belongings are usually kept in plastic bags.
The bathrooms are shared and divided by gender. There are infographics around the space explaining how to use them appropriately.
INTERVIEWS The interviews were conducted over three days while visiting the centre. It proved to be relatively difficult to engage with people in a conversation, as there were many barriers to overcome. Language was the main issue, but there were also other matters that made them reluctant to speak about themselves. While everyone would greet me politely, and smile as I passed by, they often thought that I was somewhat related to the government, and therefore could directly influence their application process towards a Refugee Visa. In that sense, they had to be wary about what they said, and be suspicious of any question regarding their experience in the centre, and the country. Shortly after my arrival, one of the volunteers’ coordinators told me that if I wanted to speak with people, I had to
engage with their children beforehand, as they would lead me to their parents. Undeniably, the children of asylum seekers are more at ease and upfront about the situation than their parents.
The interviews’ content was hidden on this online version in order to protect the users’ privacy. Although each of them was given a ficticious name,and the faces were blurred, it was agreed that the content of the conversations would not be publicly displayed. 14
As with any ethnographic research, I produced consent forms and showed them before starting the interview. These were merely informative and did not require a signature, as asylum seekers can be reluctant about signing paperwork.
INTERVIEW QUESTIONS 1 – Tell me about your life, what did you do in your country of origin? 2 – Which items do you miss from home? 3 – Which things do you believe would have helped your journey a lot, until your arrival to Belgium? 4 – Was Belgium your final destination? 5 – How do you perceive the country culturally? 6 – Do you believe you will adopt different cultural behaviours here, that you wouldn’t have in your country of origin? 7 – How do you like this place? What do you like about it? What do you dislike about it? 8 – What are your hopes for the future? 9 – Do you miss home? What kind of things do you do when you miss it? 10 – What are the most evident differences between Belgium and your home-country? 15
Age: 13 - 16 years old Country of Origine: Afghanistan Time living in the centre: 16 months
AURORE & ROSE
The interviews’ content was hidden on this online version in order to protect the users’ privacy. Although each of them was given a ficticious name,and the faces were blurred, it was agreed that the content of the conversations would not be publicly displayed. Me: How was your life in Afghanistan? A/R: We always stayed at home with our mother. Our father worked as a gardener. We didn’t leave the house, or go to school, because of the Taliban’s. Me: Do you have schools in your area? (Afghan Village) A/R: There is school for girls and boys, but we did not go because it is dangerous. When girls go to school, the Taliban’s cut their head off, or the nose, so we stayed at home. They also put poison on the children’s food, so it’s not safe to eat. Me: How was your trip from Afghanistan to Belgium? A/R: We did Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, and Belgium. We went by car, boat, and walking in mainland Europe. It took so long, and we also stayed in Turkey for 4 months because our father was ill. Me: Was Belgium your intended final destination? A/R: The original idea was to go to Germany. When we arrived there, two 16
families (of asylum seekers) told us that Belgium was very good, so we decided to come here. One of the families went to Sweden. Me: In you think of home, do you miss anything in special? A/R: The bread our mother made in the oven (Afghan Tandoor). It was very good. Me: During the trip, if you could have had any object with you, what would it be? A/R: We came by car, we walked a lot, and took the boat from Turkey to Greece. I just wanted to attend school, for my future, because I want to become a nurse. Because of the Taliban’s, I cannot go to school, and I’m forced to stay at home. Every time I went out, I had to wear a burqa and I don’t like it. Me: What do you think of Belgium? Do you like it here? A/R: Belgium is much better, there is no fighting. Afghanistan is dangerous, it is very hard as a girl to live there. For the boys as well, they can’t wear trousers: if they do, they cut their heads off.
There was a 3-year-old boy in our village that was wearing trousers. When the Taliban’s saw it, they grabbed the boy and asked the mother to turn around. When she turned back, the boy’s head was on the floor on side, and the body on the other. Just because he had trousers; it is like that there.
wanted to be a nurse. Are these your plans for the future? A/R: Yes, we go to school here. I’m in the 3rd year and Aurore is in the 2nd.
Me: Belgium is very different, was it a shock for you? A/R: It is very different, the clothes, the language, you can talk with girls and women. In Afghanistan, if men need to talk to women they shout, they do not talk to women. There is also a lot of fighting, here (Belgium) it is good. The houses are different, for instance electricity. There is also no veil, I feel free.
Me: You were one of the first families here at the centre A/R: Yes, we were only 15 families in the beginning, then a lot more came. We have been here for 16 months.
Me: Did you like all the behaviour changes you through, here in Belgium? A/R: Yes, I don’t wear the veil, I talk to boys and walk with them to school. It is good, I love it here. Me: You told me before that you (Aurore) wanted to be a dentist, and you (Rose)
Me: For the long-term, do you plan to stay in Belgium? A/R: Yes, we want to stay in Belgium.
Me: Do you like it here? A/R: Yes. Me: Is there something in special that you like here? A/R: Charles (laughs) – (Charles is one of the coordinators of the centre, that was present in the same room at the time of this interview) Me: Is there something you do not like? A/R: The restaurant, we never go there. The food in Belgium is very different in comparison to Afghanistan. Sometimes it is good, on Wednesdays it is French fries.
My Impressions: Aurore and Rose showed me around the centre after we had our interview. They were very friendly and smiley the whole time. During our walk, they showed me all the different places in the centre, and explained me how each worked. They also told me how they like there, but they don’t appreciate the boys there: they look at them with strange looks (Rose made a face of astonishment with big opened eyes, as means to replicate the boys’ reaction when they see other girls). As we visited Arlon Café – a space where the community can gather to get Wi-Fi, play pool or reading magazines – their father was there and they introduced me to him. He was alone; they explained me that he was sad because all of his friends had already left the centre, so now he had no one to hang out with with. They took me to their room afterwards. It was large bedroom that the entire family shared. They had put bedsheets as wall dividers for the sleeping spaces, and they also had a table and chairs. As I entered, their father greeted me again, and finally I was introduced to their mother and the other sister. At that point I interviewed the parents, however as they didn’t speak French, the daughters translated the conversation. They did not wish to be filmed or even audio recorded for that matter. I sensed there was a certain fear of pictures, or even social media in general. The girls told me they were not allowed to have facebook (I’m not sure if it was prohibited by the parents or the centre itself, for security purposes). The mother wore a veil, however she was the only one: the girls said she would not want to wear once she left the centre. As I was leaving the centre, I talked to Charles and enquired him about interviews for the following morning. He told me I would have trouble finding people in the morning, they all slept in, as there was nothing else to do.
The interviews’ content was hidden on this online version in order to protect the users’ privacy. Although each of them was given a ficticious name,and the faces were blurred, it was agreed that the content of the conversations would not be publicly displayed.
Insights from the interview: - They are happy they made it! - People often generate meaningful relationships with others, however they leave the centre at some point, and the ones remaining become quite lonely - The fear of the internet/technology/social media in general. It seems to be mainly for safety reasons - There is nothing to do for the adults (apart from the adult school) - There is a clash of cultures upon arrival and some are more willing to embrace difference than others. However, those who wish to embrace the new reality are often pulled back, because of the possible discrimination from more conservative people - The constant wait for the papers
Age: 43 years old Country of Origine: Yemen Time living in the centre: 28 months
The interviews’ content was hidden on this online version in order to protect the users’ privacy. Although each of them was given a ficticious name,and the faces were blurred, it was agreed that the content of the conversations would not be publicly displayed. ME: Tell me about your life, what did you do in Yemen? MTK: I was a tourist guide in Yemen. I was working since 1992 until 2008, where I was a victim of a terrorist attack, organised by the Al-Qaeda. I specialised in Belgian tourists and at the time of the death, there were four deaths: two local drivers and two Belgian tourists. I was the only survivor, but was hurt – MTK has a scar in the face and is lost his right index finger. After that, the tourism business went down, as no one wanted to come to Yemen. ME: I suppose that it’s very hard to move on after such experience, or even to ever return to Yemen. MTK: Yes, it is very hard to live with that. Being the survivor of an attack, and being in a car with four other people where everyone is talking and laughing, and suddenly it was a drama. It’s not easy. ME: Was Belgium your first choice? MTK: I chose Belgium because I always worked with Belgian people. They told me so many things about the country, I felt that I already knew it; the language also made it easier. I could have gone to France, and 20
say that I suffered an attack with Belgian people, but most likely they would have turned me down, and tell me to try my luck in Belgium then. ME: You told me you flew here from Yemen. MTK: yes, I flew. I hired a “passer” (people in the black market that forge documents and pass people through borders) to get the visas and the plane tickets via Istanbul. It was very expensive (€30,000). If I would have asked for the visas myself, I would never get them. The only way is to use a “passer” because they know everyone. They organise everything, we don’t even meet them, or know their name. ME: Are there any particular things you miss from home? MTK: I miss many things, especially my family. I miss my house and everything inside it, and also my car. ME: And you left with your daughter. MTK: I left with my wife and four children. ME: Do you still have your house
there? MTK: I still have my house, but I donâ€™t know what has become of it. Because of the war, we cannot know for sure if it still stands. ME: Do you believe you would have ever want to go back to Yemen one day? MTK: I would like to go back again to see the family, but not live there again. ME: Do you believe that there was a cultural adjustment need, when you arrived to Belgium? I know your case is peculiar, as you have worked with Belgians, and speak the language perfectly. MTK: It was different for my wife and kids, it was the first time they came to Europe. For me it was easy because I studied in France when I was young. It was all new and complicated for them. ME: Do you believe it will be hard for your wife to adapt here? MTK: It is hard for her, but she will get used to it, especially because the children are getting used to it. We have been here for two years and four months, and life in the centre is very different than outside of it. Here we feel that we are still inside the country. We have a small Arab community here in the centre, and we can only tell the difference once we get the papers and move out of the facility. By then, we will be living like Belgians, and only then we can see whether she adapts or not.
ME: Does living in the centre works as a daily reminder of the situation you have been through? MTK: Yes, it feels as we have not left Yemen. The conditions are also weak, we share a bedroom between six people and cannot cook, it is not like a house. We cannot take a step back or a step forward, we just wait. ME: What are your hopes for the future, once you get your papers? MTK: I am encouraging my children to study. My son wants to study tourism, I hope to help him become a guide, or work in the area. We just want to have a normal life, to have a house, to have my children in school, and forget about the centre. ME: You told me you miss your home, when you think about it, do you miss anything in special? MTK: We think of home every day. We live together, so we think and talk about it. ME: So being here in the centre prevents you to move on with your life. MTK: Yes, we cannot move forward. We think about our life in Yemen, before the war, and how we left our big house, and now we are living in a room. We are always thinking about the country.
ME: Do you like it here in the centre? MTK: We had enough of the centre. We have been in centres for 28 months now. This is our third one, and we are tired of it, but we donâ€™t have a choice. We just keep waiting for a decision about the papers.
My Impressions: MTK speaks French very well, and therefore it was easier to conduct the interview. After we turned the camera off, he kept talking about other matters. He told me this was the centre in comparison to the previous ones. Here he was forced to eat the food from the restaurant which he did not like. He missed being able to cook something, or eating something when he wanted, rather than waiting for specific times of the day. The food in Belgium was different than the food they were used to. He also explained that they have no idea when the papers will arrive, and how he felt he was surviving, rather than living. During his psychological accompaniment, he was told that people should stay in centres for a maximum of four months, and it is evident that such thing does not happen. I could sense he was very bothered with the conditions, and even embarrassed by it. He confessed he does not feel comfortable sharing the bathroom. MTK felt more negatively about the centre, than the others I spoke to, however it is understandable in his case. He told me how we tries to be the best he can for his children, but it is hard, so he tries to buy them small cakes, whenever he is able to. Finally, explained that countries like Syria are getting prioritised in terms of papers, and in consequence his papers take longer.
The interviewsâ€™ content was hidden on this online version in order to protect the usersâ€™ privacy. Although each of them was given a ficticious name,and the faces were blurred, it was agreed that the content of the conversations would not be publicly displayed.
Insights from the interview: - The longer you live in the centre, the sadder you get - Like the previous family, food culture (or rather the lack of it) plays an important part of their lives - The centre serves as a daily reminder of the precarious situation people are living - Family and food are once again the number one thing people miss - School plays an active role in integrating people in the people in the community - The main objective is to get the papers, and finally have a normal life
MTK was of the victim of a civil terrorist attack in Yemen, organised by the AlQaeda. He was the only survivor and lost his finger in the process.
Age: 15 years old Country of Origine: Afghanistan Time living in the centre: 18 months
The interviews’ content was hidden on this online version in order to protect the users’ privacy. Although each of them was given a ficticious name,and the faces were blurred, it was agreed that the content of the conversations would not be publicly displayed. Me: How long have you been here in Belgium? S: Around a year and a half. Me: Is this your first centre? S: Yes, it is. Me: And you are currently waiting to get the positive, right? S: Yes, we already had three interviews but we are still waiting to get the answer; it takes very long. Me: Where are you from in Afghanistan? Do you miss it? S: I’m from Kabul. I don’t miss it as it is now, but rather how it was before. There’s always something happening everyday with the Taliban’s. Me: When you think of home, what do you think of? S: When I think of my home, I get afraid of Taliban’s. Me: You’re better here in Belgium? S: Yes, much better. There is never any fighting in here. We go to school and there isn’t any problem with that. 24
Me: Do you like the school here? What do you want to do in the future? S: I like it, I want to become an electrician. Me: Do you wish to stay in Belgium in the future? S: Yes, I want to stay in Belgium. Me: How was your route from Afghanistan until you reached Belgium? S: Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, Serbia, Macedonia, Austria, and Germany. We came by car, boat – the boat is very dangerous – bus, train, and walking. Me: Was Belgium your final destination? S: Yes, in Afghanistan people told us to come to Belgium because it was good. Me: Do you find a lot of differences between Afghanistan and Belgium? S: Yes, there is no war, and no fear. Me: Do your parents speak French? S: My father doesn’t, he speaks English. My mother speaks a bit of French. She was a
judge in Kabul. Me: Do you think your mother would like to become a judge in Belgium? S: Yes, she says that when she learns French, she will try to become a judge here. Me: What does your father do? S: My father is a caterpillar engineer. He lived in Europe for fifteen years: England, France, Denmark, Greece, Norway. He saw a lot of countries. Me: What do you like in Belgium? S: I like that there is no fear and Taliban’s – that is enough. Me: What don’t you like here? S: Nothing, I’m good, I like everything here.
Sahel arrived to Greece on this boat. He still keeps the picture on his phone.
Age: 13 years old Country of Origine: Afghanistan Time living in the centre: 12 months (this is also the second centre)
The interviews’ content was hidden on this online version in order to protect the users’ privacy. Although each of them was given a ficticious name,and the faces were blurred, it was agreed that the content of the conversations would not be publicly displayed. Me: Is it hard for you to think about it, Me: You are from Afghanistan, correct? D: Yes, from Kabul. Me: How was your route to get here? D: Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and finally a boat to Greece. I came by car, train, boat, bus, amnd walking. Me: Were you afraid during the journey? D: Yes, it is dangerous. Me: How was it in the boat? D: The boat is very dangerous. It is very small and hundred people go on it. It’s very dangerous.
looking back now? D: Yes.
Me: Do you have family back in Kabul? D: Yes, and I miss them. Me: Who do you came with? D: My parents and siblings, I have six brothers and one sister. Me: What do you want to do in the future here, do you know? D: I don’t know yet. Me: Do you like the centre? D: Yes, I like it.
Me: Were that people that died in the boat? D: Yes, many.
Me: Is there anything that you don’t like here? D: No, I like it all.
Me: What happens if someone dies in the boat? Is that person thrown away? Or do they stay until arrival on land? D: We have to leave the person behind (thrown at the sea) because we can’t take the person with us.
Me: Do you miss anything from home (Afghanistan)? D: No, I’m happy here, I’m better here.
My Impressions: Both Dariush and Sahel were interviewed at the same time. As we were talking on the street it was faster than usual, and therefore I had to pose more closed questions. They were both friendly and polite and teenagers. Although it was visible that they were happy to be in Belgium, it was also clear that they were still afraid of the Talibanâ€™s. They were traumadised by their experience, the journey, and the boat. This latter is the thing that people fear the most, and it was difficult for me to imagine them going through such experience of seeing people dying, and then throwing them at the sea. Again, they are just happy they made it there.
Insights from the interview: - The boat is the most traumatic experience of the journey - The relief to be away from the issues present in their home countries is the biggest joy - The fear of the past is their biggest motivator for the future
Age: 29 years old Country of Origine: Guinea Kronakrie Time living in the centre: Less then a month
The interviews’ content was hidden on this online version in order to protect the users’ privacy. Although each of them was given a ficticious name,and the faces were blurred, it was agreed that the content of the conversations would not be publicly displayed. Me: What did you do in Guinea? Do you work there? J: No
of my father. My aunt wanted to force me to marry him. He was violent, and he was divorced, and I didn’t want to.
Me: Did you stay at home? J: Yes, the normal.
Me: You came here all alone, by yourself? J: Yes, all alone, I don’t know anyone here.
Me: Do you miss things from home? J: Miss what? Me: Maybe objects, things inside your house. How was your home? J: I left the house, I don’t remember anymore (I believe she meant “I don’t think of it anymore”) Me: When did you arrive here? J: In February (this year). Me: And before that, where were you? J: I passed through Italy. I stayed there a few months.
Me: You are sharing the room here at the moment. Do you have any problems here? J: No, everything is good here. I have no problems since I arrived. Me: Was Belgium the country you wanted to come to since the beginning? What do you think of it in terms of culture and adaption? J: Yes, it was. Since I arrived I haven’t left the centre. I have no idea what the country looks like.
Me: Why did you leave your country? J: Because of a forced marriage problem.
Me: Do you think you will want to stay here in Belgium, in the long term? J: Yes, I am not safe in my country.
Me: Your family wanted you to marry someone that you didn’t intend to? J: My cousin raped me, he is from the side
Me: Do you believe that you would have stayed in Guinea before this problem?
J: The problem is my paternal family, because in Africa the maternal family has no rights. Me: Do you have contact with your maternal family? J: My family… I lost my father. Me: Do you speak with your mother? Do you believe she might be angry? J: I don’t know if she is, or not. I ran away, no one knows where I am. Me: Do you believe that in the future you would go back? J: No because I am afraid; with everything that happened, the marriage, the rape. Now I have problems inside my head, the doctor told me so. Me: With this situation in mind, I suppose you do not miss your country. J: I don’t even think about it. It hurts to think about it. Me: Do you think that being in the centre reminds you of it? J: No, in the centre I know I am safe. Me: What do you plan to do when you get the “positive”?
J: I want to study. I want to work as a secretary. Me: What else do you like about the centre, apart from being safe? J: I’m good, I can only be thankful that I’m here. Me: What don’t you like about the centre? J: Nothing. Me: How was your trip to get here? J: It was very long, from Guinea to Bamako, and Algeria, by car. Then I took a small boat from Libya onto Italy. Then I went to France, and finally Belgium. The boat was hell. It is a nightmare. There were children that died, families were dead, it wasn’t easy. Me: Do you believe that it was harder because you were alone? In comparison to other families that were together? J: No one counted on anyone. It was each for oneself and God for all. Me: Can you think of something that could have had helped you during the trip? J: No nothing.
My Impressions: The interaction with Jeanne was overall strange. Although she spoke French particularly well, she would not understand certain questions, or answer different things. She seemed to be reluctant to speak about her country, and just answered the essential, without expanding any subject. It was difficult to create a connection at times. I was not able to photograph her, despite my attempts to explain her that the pictures were confidential, and I would be the only one with access to data. There was a clear fear about her situation in Guinea, and it traumatised her deeply. Once again, the boat experience was very dramatic.
The interviews’ content was hidden on this online version in order to protect the users’ privacy. Although each of them was given a ficticious name,and the faces were blurred, it was agreed that the content of the conversations would not be publicly displayed.
Insights from the interview: - The journey forces people to rely on their survival instinct, where everyone just looks after oneself - People are willing to just start a new life and move on, their country is no longer an option - They don’t consider “what-if” scenarios - The achievement of getting to Belgium was the necessary thing to make them move on - There is an urge to cutback with the past experiences
Age: 30 years old Country of Origine: Albania Time living in the centre: 2 months
The interviews’ content was hidden on this online version in order to protect the users’ privacy. Although each of them was given a ficticious name,and the faces were blurred, it was agreed that the content of the conversations sentenced for 25 years, he has been there Me: You have been in the centre for would not be publicly displayed. since he was 32, and he is now 36. two months. How was your trip to get here? A: Clandestine… Walking, driving…
I fled Albania to have a life, to get a job, and to get away from all of that.
Me: Do you like the centre? A: Yes, it’s not too bad. I’m better than in Albania, as I had to hide there. If I would be found, they would kill me. They are looking for me to kill me. So, I came here to have a better life. I came because I was told I could seek government protection, although I received a negative first. If I don’t get the paper, and I’m forced to go back, I will always be hiding.
Me: Do you miss your family and house? A: Yes, a lot. I talk with them every day, on the phone.
Me: Do you want to stay in Belgium in the long term? A: Yes, provided I get the positive. I don’t want to live out of government benefits, I want to get a job and learn French. Me: Do you know when you will get the answer? A: The negative arrived two weeks ago. The positive is currently being analysed by a justice lawyer. I hope they will give me the positive. I have no protection in Albania, and the government is very corrupt. If you get arrested and if you pay, they don’t send you to jail. My brother is in jail, he was 32
Me: What is your hope for the future? A: My hope is get the positive from the Belgian government and then I can stay here. I don’t want to go back to Albania and be part of wars, I don’t like it. If I go back, there will be people trying to kill me. If they try to kill, I’ll kill them first. Me: What do you wish to do in Belgium? A: Any kind of work, I would like to be a mechanic, but I also did electricity in Albania. We didn’t go to school, we learnt a bit when we were little, because we had to work. Me: Did you go to school? A: Yes, but the school was not good there, in my time. I wanted to study but we had no money, so I had to work. It’s that way Albania, you work to put food on the table. You work to survive.
My Impressions: I found A. while I was walking around the facilities, and he was smoking a cigarette outside of the restaurant. He didnâ€™t speak English, or French, so we ended making the interview in Italian. It was difficult to understand him at times, as not only he spoke fast, but also with an accent. Listening now to the recording, I still have trouble understanding certain things. His refugee status had already been denied, and he was now in his second attempt to obtain it. Overall, he was friendly and eager to speak; I could sense that he felt lonely, and most likely had no one to speak to. Through the whole conversation, he was keen on passing the message that he just wanted to get the positive, and get a job to earn for himself.
Insights from the interview: - Family once again, is the thing people miss the most - The lack of communication/interaction with other people inside the centre - The eagerness to show and prove they want to stay in the country
Age: 28 years old Country of Origine: Afghanistan Time living in the centre: Almost a year
The interviews’ content was hidden on this online version in order to protect the users’ privacy. Although each of them was given a ficticious name,and the faces were blurred, it was agreed that the content of the conversations would not be publicly displayed. Me: Tell me about your life. E: I worked in Kabul, in the central passport department. I have two sisters and one brother, and both my parents died. I am alone in my country. Me: Did you come alone here, or with any of your siblings? E: I came alone here, but my brother lives in Holland. Me: Is he an asylum seeker? E: No, he has the papers. Me: And your sisters? E: They are both in Kabul. Me: What happened to your parents? E: My father died of a heart problem, and my mother had a “head” problem. Me: And because of that you were alone in Kabul? E: Yes, I slept at my sisters’ – one day on one’s house, and another on the other’s – I don’t have a place to stay in Kabul. Me: When did you leave Afghanistan? E: I arrived on March 18th (2016), and 34
I had my first interview on February 2nd (2017). Now I am waiting for the second one, but I don’t know when it will happen. Me: Do you want to stay in Belgium? Was it your final destination? E: Yes, I want to stay. When I left, I flew to Dubai, then Turkey, and finally Amsterdam. After that I came here. Me: Do you miss Kabul? E: I miss my sisters, but I don’t miss the rest because of the situation there. Me: Was it dangerous to work there? E: Yes, very dangerous, the Taliban’s and the Daesh invaded twice our office. Me: When you think about home, do you miss anything apart from your sisters? E: I miss the bread (laughs), my friends, my office. I think about my work, it was hard coming here and losing my job. Me: Was it a shock arriving here in Belgium? E: The first day I arrived here I cried a lot. I went to a policeman and asked for help
and he said he couldn’t do anything; I told him that I was alone and needed help. Me: How did you get to the centre? E: Initially I went to BTC and they gave me a room for 10 days, and then I went to the commissariat and they sent me here with these African girls. Me: Would you like to work here when you get the papers? E: Yes, I like working. Me: What kind of work would like to do? E: I don’t know, I would like to work in an office, but here it might be very difficult I think. Me: Do you think that because Belgium is so different you would adopt different behaviours here? E: The centre of Afghanistan (Kabul) is quite like this in terms of culture, I also didn’t wear the veil there. Me: Do you like it here? E: Yes, I like the centre. Me: What do you like about it? E: People here always help. Me: The people living in the camp, or the volunteers? E: The volunteers, the director, the assistants… Me: Do you get along with the other people in the centre? E: No, just this family (Aurore & Rose’s family). When I got here, everyone came in my room and asked me about my parents, and why I was alone. They talked behind my back, I don’t like them, this family is the only exception.
Me: Do you think that they were talking behind your back because you were alone? E: Yes, you see, Afghan people they don’t like to see women alone, and that I want to stay alone. They don’t know anything about me, when I told them that my parents died, they said that I was not telling the true. This family is the first one that believed me. When I cry, she cries (Aurore and Rose’s mother) with me. She tells me “I’m your mother, and they are your sisters, and he is your father”. I only talk to them here in the centre. Me: What kind of things don’t like here in the camp? E: Talking behind people’s back, lies. Me: What are your hopes for the future? E: In the future, I want to study in English, not French, because it is very difficult (laughs). I want to work and support my sisters because they don’t have a good life in Afghanistan. Me: Are your sisters married: E: Yes, one has two children, and the other has one. Me: Would you like them to come here as well? E: they don’t have the money to come here. Me: Are they happy in Kabul? E: No, I talk with them every day. Me: Do you miss them? E: Yes, I’m the big sister, one is 22 and the other is 20. My brother is 30. Me: Apart of the war, what are the biggest differences when comparing Belgium to Afghanistan? E: I don’t know, just the fighting, the war.
My Impressions: I met Ethisham on the first day I arrived to the centre. She didn’t want to tell me her story at the time. A couple of days later, I ran into her and by then she agreed to speak. We went to Aurore and Rose’s room, where we spoke, in English. As she told me about her story, I could see that she was very afraid of taking the step of moving to Europe by herself. She made me acknowledge the fear that one must feel in an unknown foreign place, with no place to go, or any plan whatsoever. I also understood that were many preconceptions inside the centre, in this specific case inside the Afghan community. Because she was alone, people would automatically judge her. People flee the country to be free, and yet they still face hostility from others around them.
The interviews’ content was hidden on this online version in order to protect the users’ privacy. Although each of them was given a ficticious name,and the faces were blurred, it was agreed that the content of the conversations would not be publicly displayed.
Insights from the interview: - The wait for the papers is very long – it took Ethisham a full year to get her first interview - Once again, please miss their families and food - People face prejudgements from other community members, as if they were still back in the home country - People wait until they leave the centre to finally adopt the social behaviours they wish to, away from more conservative members
INDENTIFY DESIGN OPPORTUNITIES
ONE FAMILY ONE ROOM People in the centre have no privacy in their rooms. If they are a family they can share the space only between themselves, however if they are alone, they will forcefully share the space with other people. They also don’t have any place to store their belongings, such as clothes, that are usually kept in plastic bags. In order to get some privacy, some try to make walls with bedsheets.
“We share a bedroom between six people, it’s not a house”
MISSING FOOD Many people told me they missed the food from their home countries, but also the habit of cooking and preparing their own meals. Food is a strong cultural aspect, however in this case, could this bring people together inside the centre?
â€œI miss the bread our mother made in the oven, it was very good.â€?
With the information collected from the interviews and observations, I started mapping the key insights in order to turn them in into five main design opportunities, so I could identify possible directions for my project.
THE LONGER I STAY THE SADDER I GET
People in the centre get more depressed as time passes by. They feel they cannot think about their options for the future. Could a service help people interact with local communities and therefore prepare them towards a future path?
“Life in the centre is very different than outside of it”
N1 MISS: FAMILY Everyone I spoke to missed their families deeply. This is aggravated by the fact that they don’t even know when they will see them again. Although the majority speak on the phone every day, they miss a more personal contact. Can a new and subtler form of communication provide a more natural experience, or perhaps help people deal with the hopelessness of the situation?
“I miss my family a lot. I talk with them every day.” 40
JUDGEMENT IN THE CENTRE Although people fled their homes to be free, sometimes they are still attached to social and cultural habits they do not necessarily wish to: the fear of what other members of the same country might say or do; people judging others without knowing their stories. Some of these situations reveal, in fact, distinct forms of racism from people with similar background. Can design help such individuals integrate and gain an active voice in the community?
â€œThey talk behind my back.â€?
EXPLORING AN OPPORTUNITY
Our homes are usually a manifestation of our individual identity, and provide us a sense of belonging like no other place. Recognising the importance of this, and with the main opportunities more clearly defined, I decided to focus on two related ideas: first, on the lack of comfort and privacy; and second on the observed prejudgement leading to exclusion and lack of community spirit in the centre. Refugees are forced to flee their homes, and consequently find themselves in different socio-cultural environments. They find themselves living in centres for long periods, with no privacy, comfort, or basic amenities, let alone the opportunity to change it.
As I visited people in their rooms, they made their best effort to host in a proper manner, offering me tea and biscuits, yet I could see they felt embarrassed about their living facilities.
As refugees struggle to fit in a new social reality, but also to express themselves as members of their small community, could adequate furniture enhance comfort and eventually contribute to bring some of those barriers down?
Cucula is a group of designers who work with refugees, with the objective of making people deal with their past experiences, through craft practices. Part of the wood used in the chairs are taken from previous refugee boats. It is a strong example of how furniture can integrate people.
Source: Cucula 45
HOUSING IN DIFFERENT CULTURES
The things we have in our homes are naturally influenced by our own cultural background. They say a lot about our who we are, although this is also subject to many interpretation and variations, depending on the objects themselves, where we live and the eyes of the beholder. In order to understand some of the many distinct iterations of home, comfort, and privacy, I looked at domestic environments in different cultures.
In this example of an Afghan living room, people are sharing a meal. It is their costume to sit on rugs lined against the wall, and the food is eaten with the hands, as in the whole of the Arabic Peninsula.
HOW DO REFUGEES LIVE?
Simultaneously, I looked at other centres and camps, in an attempt to understand how such cultural behaviour is translatable and eventually reflected to these peoples’ new condition as a refugee. Like anyone else, asylum seekers try to personalise the space, or increase their comfort. However, the goods are scarce, and often don’t reflect what one would have wished for.
In MTK’s room, one can see an attempt of personalisation and cultural manifestation, with the flag placed on the wall, yet the we can also see his family’s clothes stored in plastic bags, as there is no place to properly storage them.
At that moment, I started playing with the idea of creating a type of modular furniture that could enhance a personâ€™s sense of privacy while increasing comfort. At the same time, I also wished to facilitate social experiences, whether with the family or other members within the community.
In order to identify when and how certain domestic moments occur, I also had to understand and classify the distinct spaces inside a house that are private, common, or used individually or in a group. From then I created a key moment for each part of the house, that could best represent it. 49
As individual space in refugee centres is very limited, I used the key moments identified before to create a narrative, where rather than square meters per person, inhabitants would each get a small moveable wall. The more walls people have in a room, the more spaces they create.
I used the key moments identified before to create a narrative, where rather than square meters per person, inhabitants would each get a small moveable wall.
The walls are perforated and allow to place items that can become furniture. I felt this could reflect the necessary moments of a domestic environment. Unlike the wall, the items would be fully transportable in case the owners would move to another centre. The items I created could be converted in seating, bedding, or eating solutions, however I soon started creating more concrete types of objects such as a small lamp, a sink, and a mirror. Making those specific objects also made me question that same concept, and whether such furniture could indeed provide the appropriate response for such a complex set of issues.
Making those specific objects such as sink, or a mirror, made me question that same concept, and whether if furniture could indeed provide the appropriate response for such a complex set of issues.
WHAT PEOPLE CARRY
In order to answer the question raised in the previous concept exploration, I investigated several examples of objects that refugees take with them, when fleeing the country. Through this research, I quickly understood that the only thing that was common to everyone, was that they brought items that connected them to someone or something they might have lost, or were afraid to lose. Refugees usually bring objects that connect them to someone after they have departed from their homelands, and knowing that possibly they might never see that person or place again. Once they are placed in foster centres, they struggle to make new acquaintances, and yet when they make them, there will be an inevitable point where some of the parties will leave and therefore generate a new departure moment again.
Yusuf only brought his phone, so he can call his father back in his home country, and look at the pictures he took of his relatives and friends.
Source: PetaPixel For Magboola, this casserole was the most important, and only item she brought with her, as she could use it to cook and feed her children.
Source: PetaPixel 52
Could the answer be an object for departures?
Cheenak is a wishbone game in Afghanistan, where two players brake it in half, and spend the next few days trying to give back their part of the bone to the other player, without the latter realising it. These types of games foment social moments and are simple enough that doesnâ€™t require language skills.
Refugees usually bring objects that connect them to someone after they have departed from their homelands, and knowing that possibly they might never see that person or place again. 53
FROM FURNITURE TO FOOD
This idea of creating moments and integrating people that might not share a similar language made me understand that rather than focusing on many domestic scenarios, as I did before, I should just focus on one: a moment when people come together.
Such thought made me think of food, and how people in the centre missed it. Food is a necessity and a passport to one’s own culture. It empowers people as they are able to connect with a positive familiar feeling, but also invites others to join and share that moment. Meals are a crucial moment for the development of successful social situations.
“Sharing cups of green tea, meals, and hospitality with the locals, has long been considered critical to NATO’s “hearts and minds” counter insurgency campaign.” The Telegraph 54
FOOD AS EMPOWEREMENT With the objective of validating the point raised before, I started looking at similar examples of food being used as an empowerment tool for refugees, or other socially excluded groups. I quickly understood that these were vast, and there were many successful examples.
Source: TED David Hertz is a cook and social entrepreneur that uses cooking as a methodology to bring people together in fractured communities. “But then I had a vision. The potential for food not only to train people and employ them, but to create a social cohesion and a healing force for people and communities in troubled situations.”
Syria Supper Club started in London, and nowadays everyone can make it. People cook Syrian food and the attendants pay for the meals. The money goes to refugees. In this example, it is running in New Jersey, where the initiative is particularly important, due to Trump’s policies of racism and Islamophobia throughout the country. These women can show that Syria is more than wars and preconceived notions.
Source: TIME Magazine 56
Source: The Guardian The Strasbourg Refugee Food Festival is an event that sees local restaurants opening their kitchens to refugee chefs, where they cook and serve their food to the local community.
I quickly understood that the idea to empowering refugees through food was not new, and there were in fact many successful examples.
Newcomer Kitchen is arguably the most famous example. It is a restaurant in Toronto, ran by refugees. It is so successful that there is always a queue outside, and many celebrities go there.
Source: Newcomer Kitchen
CONCEPT I.0: From cooking to kitchen
IDENTIFYING MOMENTS WITHIN OPPORTUNITIES With the recent findings, I went back to opportunities identified after the visit to the centre in Belgium. One of them focused on the topic of food and how people missed certain food from their home countries. If that was indeed the direction to follow with the project, I had to understand if I could identify other opportunities that could be directly or indirectly influenced by this main one.
If I focused on food, I could directly or indirectly influence five issues that I had previously identified in the centre: - - - - -
Lack of communication between cultures The long stay in centres, “I’m still here, they left already” Nothing to do They’re happy they made it
Lack of Communication between cultures: Being food a natural passport to one’s culture, could it bring people from different socio-cultural backgrounds together?
Long stay in the Centre: As people stay long periods of time in the centre, could they cook for themselves as a way to be more independent?
They’re happy they made it If people are happy they made to the country, could food work as a form of celebration?
“I’m still here they left already” If people become sad when their friends leave the premises, could they meet and greet newcomers through food rituals and celebrations?
Nothing to do As people have nothing to do during the day, could certain food habits and rituals keep them entertained? 61
INITIAL CONCEPT After understanding how food could potentially influence and improve the lives of people in centres, I started looking at different ways for this idea to evolve into a concept.
Book: Could it be reflected through a book, where people share their home recipes with each other, thus creating a new form of culture born in the centre?
Utensils: As cultures differ, so do the utensils and methodologies people use for cooking. Could a new set of tools designed to meet these different purposes, help people cooking in similar ways they used to, back in their home countries?
Kitchen: Despite one creating recipes or having specific utensils, one will always need access to some sort of kitchen space in order to cook them.
This process allowed me to identify an initial concept, but also to understand how I could incorporate other elements in it. The kitchen is known as the â€œheart of a houseâ€?, and a core space for the family, so how can such important element be incorporated in a family room in centres?
As kitchens differ a lot according to culture and geographical location, I sought feedback from some people I interviewed in the centre, and others from similar cultural backgrounds. The main feedback was that although the kitchen space itself can vary a lot from culture to culture, the utensils are very much the same, and the big differences were reflected in the ingredients, recipes, and certain cooking methods. To make sure of this feedback, I cross-referenced the information I got from refugees with opinions from food experts specialised in Middle Eastern food, as well as journalists who have also visited and reported on camps in the past.
The main feedback was that although the kitchen space itself can vary a lot from culture to culture, the utensils are very much the same.
Source: The Guardian Tandoor One of the few different utensils is the tandoor, that is traditionally made in clay (in Afghanistan it is made in bricks placed underground) and used for all fire cooking. Bread (Naan) is cooked in tandoors.
Zibdye A zibdye is a glazed clay bowl that comes with a lemonwood pestle. It is a common item in a Palestinian kitchen, and works as a mortar and pestle, a cooking pot, and a serving bowl.
Source: The Atlantic
MAKING A KITCHEN
The feedback gathered made me understand that although there were not many differences in terms of items utilise to cook in a kitchen, and that there were a few key things that varied and could be incorporated. One example was the tandoor.
As I developed this concept of a kitchen that people could use in the centre, or even in other centres, I realised that it needed to respond to a certain number of requirements in order to be viable: - It needed to be cheap and easy to manufacture - Be small and portable so it could be moved around different spaces - Have the basic elements for a kitchen, yet allow for customisation from different cultures - Be disassembled and transportable, in case people need to move to another centre
Source: Dezeen With means to understand how I could design such item, I looked at different examples of existent portable kitchens, and the type of essentials these encompassed in order to become functional.
PAPER PROTOTYPES As part of an exploration method, and taking inspiration from the aforementioned portable kitchens, I started developing paper prototypes, so I could gain a threedimensional notion of how a basic structure could work.
Picnic kitchen: Inspired by traditional picnic baskets, this kitchen pops out of a box. The outer shell becomes a counter where the sink is placed. It also stores utensils and includes an eating space.
Kitchen made of sticks: This kitchen is made out of sticks with two different measurements. Once assembled, they form a cohesive structure. A kitchen counter, a sink, or other parts can be added and therefore create a different kitchen each time. It allows for strong customisation.
CONCEPT I.I: Digitally Fabricated Kitchen 70
MANUFACTURE & STAKEHOLDERS
One of the conditions previously identified to build the kitchen, was that it had to be cheap and easy to manufacture. In that sense, it needed to be assembled (and eventually disassembled) relatively fast, and in a simple way. Another issue was how and who would, or could, build the kitchen? Earlier in a review, it was suggested that perhaps refugees could build it themselves, if they had the appropriate tools. That made me consider building an open-source kitchen. The instructions to build it from scratch would be made available to anyone who wished to build it. I knew that the centre I visited in Belgium had a small wood workshop, however even with the appropriate tools, it would take a long time to actually build one single kitchen, let alone more. At that moment, I started thinking about this idea of an open source kitchen, that could be mass manufactured. For that to happen, it would need to be entirely made of machines. I looked at many processes of digital fabrication, such as laser cutters or CNC routers. After careful consideration and consultation with different designers and technicians, I considered that building the kitchen with the help of a CNC machine seemed the most plausible choice, due to the capability of cutting several different materials, and many thicknesses. It was also the one offering the best finishing after cutting, since it does not burn the edges such as, for example, a laser cutter.
Open Desk resorts to digital fabrication as a medium for building furniture. It is a platform where anyone can download the digital files and then build it, resourcing to laser cutters and CNCâ€™s.
Source: OpenDesk 72
Although I could make the digital files to create a kitchen, I had to presume people would have access to such machinery, especially in deprived environments such as refugee camps. Through desk research, I found out that there is, in fact, a growing trend of communal makers’ spaces, where people are encouraged to interact with digital fabrication methods, and build their own things. These technological workshop spaces help people with the creation of objects for their daily live activities, but can also encourage the emergence of micro-economies, when people start selling or exchanging some of their creations. I imagined a scenario where these machines became widely available in communities, and in refugee centres. Rather than outsourcing furniture from large companies, users and agencies on the field could produce their own items with local materials, at a lower cost, and at therefore becoming both users and stakeholders. Although this may sound like a very optimistic, or else far remote scenario, I believe we are actually not that far from it. MIT’s recent project, such as the FabLab, are developed and entirely ran by students. These labs are in fact makers’ spaces, which allow people in deprived communities to learn about methods of digital fabrication, while making the machine and facilities available to anyone to use. This project has already have a series of successful implementation and it raised awareness, not only in terms of how digital crafts can empower local communities but inclusively generate networks built on micro-economic dynamics.
Although refugee centres having access to digital fabrication machinery may sound like a very optimistic, or else far remote scenario, I believe we are actually not that far from it. MIT’s recent project, such as the FabLab, are developed and entirely ran by students. These labs are in fact makers’ spaces, which allow people in deprived communities to learn about methods of digital fabrication, while making the machine and facilities available to anyone to use.
CARDBOARD PROTOTYPE Although I wanted the kitchen to be digitally manufactured, I still considered the importance of allowing it also to be made manually with traditional machines. In order to respond to both methods of digital and traditional fabrication, the design needed to be simple, and allow for cuts to happen solely in two dimensions
I still considered important to allow a product to be made manually with traditional machines. In order to respond to both methods of digital and traditional fabrication, the design needed to be simple, and allow for cuts to happen solely in two dimensions.
Inspired in wooden boxes, I started drawing a rectangular box with a sliding cover that unveiled a kitchen underneath. That same cover would then rotate 180ยบ, and double up as a side table for people to share the meal they had just prepared.
With this layout, I created a scenario where people would get together, with each family bringing their own kitchen, and how they could be arranged in modules to accommodate more and more people.
As I explored this concept, I made a cardboard prototype and some clay items. Although it was an explorative model, with no detailing yet, it clearly showed that the kitchen seemed not only too closed, but helped me identifying issues with the current sliding system, such as the frame around the cooking area, that would severely difficult the access to cook in it.
CONCEPT I.2: Cooking is a ritual
COOKING, HERITAGE, & RITUALS
While developing the concept, and working on its manufacturing process, I continued investigating the significant cultural role of food, and the heritage it represents. Food and recipes are passed from generation to generation, and therefore become a living inheritance. Food is also memory, which is in turn one of the only immaterial things people can carry everywhere within themselves. Ultimately, memories connect everything and everyone.
This book has all the recipes of T.â€™s grandmother, who passed away 20 years ago. They are all digitally scanned from the original handwritten manuscripts, and every member of the family has a copy. In the end there are blank pages, so people can add new recipes and continue the story.
Around that same time, I participated in a matcha ceremony. As we sat on the floor and prepared the tea, I realised how the ritual itself was almost more important than the action of drinking in the end. Every item had its own place and specific purpose. At the same time, being on the floor level made the environment more intimate, and the interaction seemed lighter and flowing in a natural way. This made me understand why so many cultures in the middle east, India, or Japan, eat in such position.
Food is also memory, which is in turn one of the only immaterial things people can carry everywhere within themselves. Ultimately, memories connect everything and everyone.
TESTING A RITUAL
Rituals and ceremonies around cooking and eating are constantly present in our daily habits. We host special meals with the good “china”, have romantic dinners at candle lights, or even celebrate something with a toast. Such behaviours are very ancient, yet still very contemporary. All of us refer to them, even if most of the time unconsciously. In that sense, I decided to make a food sharing ritual. I started everything from scratch, and as I baked the bread, there was a pleasing smell around the house. In order to replicate the seating on the floor experience, I set up the bread, the pâté, and the tea on a small coffee table. This process made me understand how such a simple action can become strong ritual, and most importantly the value it added to the overall experience.
By baking bread and sit on the floor level to eat it, I realised how such a simple action can become strong ritual, and most importantly the value it added to the overall experience. 82
With the previous experiences in mind, I started defining an aesthetic that mainly focused on earthly tones and natural materials, much similar to the traditional Japanese culture. The idea is to make a space that creates an environment of peace and familiarity, and therefore allows people to get a sense of belonging, and heal the wounds from their traumatic experiences.
The idea of resourcing to earthly tones, and natural materials, is to give people a sense of belonging, and create safe space that helps overcominhg the traumatic experiences. 85
PROTOTYPING WITH PLYWOOD After defining the aesthetic, I started playing with patterns that would reflect an earthly environment. As I prototyped those ideas, I decided to use a plywood sheet rather than cardboard, so it could help me understand the materiality of a potential real product.
FEEDBACK ABOUT THE PRODUCT I kept drawing and refining the product, and at that point I was given the key feedback about the product: - The rectangular shape was not ideal for the table, as it created corners that are natural points of isolation - Consider how people interact with the designed object, in terms of height for both cooking and seating - Understand the limitations of the product, especially in regards to a tandoor, which achieves very high temperatures - Keep the utensils to a minimum, perhaps focus on three main recipes
This feedback made me question the design of the product, in particular the height. If the product was supposed to embrace certain universal aspects, related also to ergonomics, it could not solely work on a floor level. In order to clarify the situation, I sought user feedback again, and was told that nowadays, especially in cities, people cook in regular kitchen counters, but the meals are still traditionally on the ground level.
THE FOUR ELEMENTS OF COOKING
At the same time, I researched about recipes or meals that could almost be universal. Even when recognising that these rituals still differ a lot according to different cultures and background, I investigated possibilities of designing a kitchen, whose main purpose would be to focus on the cooking of those same recipes. I started thinking of what made a kitchen truly universal, and so I decided to take a step back and include the four elements that one needs for cooking: fire, water, air, and earth. I could build a kitchen that would work as a structure to allow users to incorporate those elements.
I started thinking of what made a kitchen truly universal, and so I decided to take a step back and include the four elements that one needs for cooking: fire, water, air, and earth.
With the feedback received and the refinement brought by the identification of the four elements, I started redesigning the product. During this process, drawing exploration was crucial to understand how I could incorporate a round table, and yet maintain a certain a size and functionality. Since I started designing a kitchen, I had always placed wheels, so it could be easily transportable from one place to another, and from that I took the idea to create a larger wheel that could double up as a table. The idea could not only potentially work, but also give the item a more attractive aesthetic, rather than the previous schematic approach. Based on the information from users, I raised the kitchen counter to a normal height, as not only the ergonomics would be correct, but the product would also address more distinct cultures. As for the table, I kept it at a lower level, in order to meet the needs of the people I interviewed for the project, however the system would also allow the user to make higher legs, should they prefer a higher table.
NAME & LOGO During the entirety of the project, I kept referring to the product as “OpenKitchen” although I did not fully appreciate the name. Nevertheless, I wished to keep the “open-source” spirit of the product, while giving it a more engaging name: Kitchen-O.
Simultaneously, I wanted to describe the kitchen and its purpose, in a simple and honest way, hence this motto:
A small kitchen, with a big heart.
TESTING IN CNC SCALE After exploring paper prototypes, I needed to ensure the adequate measurements for the kitchen that had to be the smallest possible in order to keep my initial intentions of making it portable. At the same time, the kitchen also had to be big enough in order to allow for basic storage and cooking. Finally, and parallel to these two main preoccupations, I could not overlook the size limits of CNC machines. In order to address this issue properly, I replicated those limitations in real-scale, on a table. This process was crucial to define the measures and exact shape of the kitchen body.
This process was crucial to define the measures and exact shape of the kitchen body.
PROTOTYPING IN CAD
With the sizes, measurements, and layouts aligned, I started designing the product in different CAD software. It was very important to be very rigid with the measurements. One of the crucial aspects of this level of precision was to understand how the wooden panels would join together, especially in terms of angles and thickness, which could not be investigated solely with paper models.
Once in the CNC router machine, the process was quite straightforward, lasting around 30 minutes for each panel to be cut. In total, it took me around 8 hours to fully make the kitchen. As this was the first attempt, I took extra precautions that cost me more time, but ensured less margin of error.
Kitchen-O is an open-source portable kitchen that brings cooking rituals back in to refugee centres, where people donâ€™t have the facilities to prepare their own food. It gives the possibilities for refugees to manifest and share their cultural background through the food they are used to and enjoy the most. Perhaps even more important Kitchen-O allows families to provide for themselves and their loved ones. Being an open-source product, the instructions are available for anyone to reproduce it, and it is entirely digitally fabricated, thus being locally built, with locally sourced materials. Its manufacturing process gives the user the freedom and choice of the desired material. The instructions allow it to be built out of different types and qualities of wood, aggregates, or even metal, with different costs involved. Kitchen-O celebrates food, cooking, and food rituals. It brings together the four main cooking elements, which are universal to every human being: fire, water, air, and earth. Every element has its value, place and purpose inside Kitchen-O. Cooking is not a task; it is a ceremony, a celebration, a collective ritual.
A small kitchen, with a big heart.
Fire: Heat is crucial to cooking any kind of food, whether if it is meat, fish, or vegetables. For health & safety reasons I could not have an open fire, but I could build the structure to allow the installation of a hot plate, or even a â€˜campingazâ€™, if no electricity was around. Underneath there is a space for storing a pot and plates.
Water: Water is essential for drinking, cooking, and cleaning. There is a hole for a large bowl to be used as a sink. On the shelf below, there is space to store a jug and cups.
Air: In terms of cooking, air is synonym of fermentation, a natural cooking method in itself. On the bottom shelf, there is a slightly darker space where one can ferment food, such as bread.
Earth: Everything comes and returns to the earth. On the counter, there is a small hole for an aromatic plant pot, and underneath it, a small bin for compost, so the food leftovers can be composted and eventually generate new crops. 105
COOKING IS EMPOWERMENT
Cooking is not just a routine in our everyday lives, it is an activity that defines us as humans. We mainly cook because we need food to survive, but also because we take pleasure in savouring the meal we prepared. This skill allows us to provide to ourselves, and equally importantly to those around us. Cooking for someone is more than a social or family activity, it is also a demonstration of affection towards those around us. As a refugee, one is deprived of family members, a home, a country, and for the most part of time, of oneâ€™s own food. The majority of refugee centres do not possess the facilities to allow its inhabitants to cook for themselves, thus forcing them to constantly eat a food they have not prepared and do not feel necessarily connected with. Having the possibility to cook is an important factor for refugees, as they can both express their own cultural background and find themselves through their food, but most importantly, provide for their loved ones.
Imagine a small kitchen that is big enough to provide for a family and finally bring a bit of normality in a life full of tribulations. The small kitchen becomes the heart of this small home that once was just a small, empty room.
DIGITAL DISCRIMINATION BECOMES DIGITAL FABRICATION
Technology is a fundamental part of our contemporary lives. It changed our behaviours, communication methods, and empowered us to a great extent. Yet, it is only available to those who can afford it, in both economic and infrastructural terms. As more and more digital craft spaces become available for communal use, how can these empower socially excluded communities, such as refugees? Can we turn digital discrimination into digital fabrication?
Imagine a place where such communities have access to digital fabrication facilities, and can make their own things as they need it, rather than living in an almost empty room that resembles a prison? As time passes by, they start mastering the craft, and produce their own designs, thus reflecting who they are and where they came from. Eventually, they can even produce to sell or exchange. Imagine a new refugee camp that needs to be set up, and rather than importing all the necessary equipment, everything is made in place, with locally sourced materials, at a lower cost for the agency and the environment.
FOOD IS THE LANGUAGE THAT EVERYONE SPEAKS
The practice of cooking is common to everyone, however there are different methodologies and ingredients, which are often associated with different cultures. In our age of globalisation, we have learnt, and even grown attached to various foods, yet there is nothing quite like our own cuisine that we grew up with. It makes us feel at home, and most significantly, it tells a story of who we are, and where we came from. Food is a living heritage we get from our families and our culture, which consequently represent us as an individual entity to others. Cooking is a ritual that brings separate ingredients together into a union of flavours. In all its diversity, cooking is a common language for everyone, one that breaks barriers like no other, and therefore directly empowers the individual, the group or community, or even a whole culture.
Imagine a kitchen that is based on the four most fundamental elements humans need to cook: fire, water, air, earth. What happens if that kitchen is placed in a space where people donâ€™t speak the same language, or share the same culture? Food can become a common link that brings people together, and allows them to share, learn, and gain new meaningful connections.
The self-initiated project, as the name indicates, was very different than any other assignment before. It was changeling not having a brief to refer to in times of doubt, yet it was also freeing and inspiring to be able to follow the methods I have learnt over the past four years, at a time I felt they were appropriate to use. At the start of the project, I was very nervous about my visit to the refugee centre, as I had no idea about the reality I would find inside, but also how open or closed the inhabitants would be, especially in the context of my research. Throughout the whole time of the visit, it was difficult to engage with people, and many of them whom I approached either did not speak the language, or preferred not to share their stories with me. When I could find someone that was open to tell me about their life, the language barrier often made it difficult to fully express their feelings. Nevertheless, as they spoke, and shared their past experiences, I could sense a truly human compassion growing between us, but also the relieve on their side, to have someone that was willing to listen to what they had to say. The lack of community sense inside the centre was very clear, as other than the children, people did not speak to each other, and this isolated them, therefore only increasing their loneliness. When I identified food as the link to empower and bring people together as a community, I felt that all those loose ideas I had in the air were finally making sense. I understood how food plays an immense role in social activities, how people not only told me they missed cooking, but also how they offered me tea and biscuits anytime I visited them in their rooms. I clearly remember when I was interviewing Ethisham, Aurore’s mother was also present; while Ethisham spoke English, the other lady only spoke Dari, yet she prepared the tea, and cut a waffle and a snickers bar in three equal parts. Just like in a ritual, she placed the items at the centre of the table, and kept inviting me to eat a piece through signals. It is because of moments like this, that I believe that this project makes sense and can improve these persons lives. Maybe one day they will not have to share a snickers bar as a snack, but perhaps a 112
piece of bread, cooked according to their own cooking rituals, which they miss so much. In that sense, I am happy with my outcome, despite being very different from any other project I have completed in the past, due to the scale, materiality, and even intended function. Although this prototype may be the final product for this project’s assessment, I don’t consider it finalised yet. I rather think of it as a first full-scale prototype, where I can identify issues that compromise its appropriate functionality: - I had initially planned for a prototype with no glue or screws. Yet, for structural reasons, the large wheel/table had to be constructed out of two 9mm circles (instead of one 18mm sheet as everything else) that had to be glued together. The surface supporting the hot plate also had to be glued. - The bottom base, although it is not glued, it does not support a heavy amount of weight, and its attachment to the outer wooden frame will need to be redesigned (in the same way the inner shelf in the middle initially was). - The large wheel is not stable enough to be moved around, so the rotating system would need to be redesigned and refined. - The feet are too thin, and can potentially compromise the security and stability of the structure in case of heavy vibration or very irregular pavement surfaces. My next step would now be to go back to the drawing board, and keep refining the product’s functionality and aesthetic, over and over again. This is the value I see in thinking and designing through making and crafting. That being said, I am happy with what I have made within the timeframe of this final project. I also recognise that it was very difficult to build a working prototype in full (1:1) scale. It involved several designing and building technicalities and a lot of consultation. This intense process was something I had not fully explored or even fully engaged with, yet I consider it to be something that any designer must learn at some point. I also believe that it would have been beneficial if I would have gone back to the centre during the concept refinement, and also to show the final product, however it was not feasible logistically, in the timeframe of the project. Nevertheless, I kept contact with a few members, who proved to be crucial for appropriate feedback at the different stages. At the moment, I am looking for places in Belgium where I can produce another prototype (with the detected improvements), and to offer it to the centre. I am also exploring the possibility of building a few versions of the kitchen in a makers space currently being developed together with the local and very active community of Comuna 8, a socially deprived informal settlement in the Colombia’s city of Medellín. If successful, this project can move to a whole new level of engagement with real people’s necessities in the context of Latin America.
The feet are too thin, and can potentially compromise the security and stability of the structure in case of heavy vibration or very irregular pavement surfaces.
The feet are too thin, and can potentially compromise the security and stability of the structure in case of heavy vibration or very irregular pavement surfaces.
The large wheel is not stable enough to be moved around, so the rotating system would need to be redesigned and refined.