Most architects we know are good cooks. They tend to fall into two camps: those that are very exacting and like to follow the recipe to the last gramme, and those that like to be more creative and modify a recipe to their own taste and the available ingredients. These skills develop in childhood in the kitchen; a place of nurture, creativity, and social interaction. What can we learn from this creative and nurturing environment? Can we implement some of these characteristics in the modern-day work environment?
Hawkins\Brown looked at the processes that take place in the kitchen, from bringing in the shopping, preparing a meal, and then enjoying sharing the food with friends and family. With the help of Michael Riebels’ daughter’s toy kitchen, we mapped out different scenarios, tried to work out what the key processes were and if they could translate into uses within the office.
We then looked at the layout of the traditional workplace, which typically has a linear progression from public frontage to private workspace. On entering, one is greeted at the defence line of the reception desk with corporate logo emblazoned above. What follows is a short journey to some glazed meeting room or even a walk through lines of open-plan desks to somewhere tucked in the back. This can be a dark and functional teapoint or kitchenette, with little space to share a coffee with a colleague.
Could we reverse this linear process of experience and make the kitchen the new reception? Could it be a warm, social space where colleagues informally meet each other or a client over a cup of coffee and a sandwich? Could key elements from the kitchen infiltrate the office floor?
We are all familiar with the idea of the ‘water cooler moment’, when people naturally congregate around the coffee machine. Could more of these symbols – more commonplace perhaps in the domestic kitchen – become catalysts for social interaction within the workplace? Could we create a linear kitchen that starts at reception with the kitchen table and then key components like Zip water taps, coffee machines, fridges, dishwashers et cetera pop up within a storage wall that meanders all the way through the workspace? Can the whole workspace become one large communal kitchen supporting more activity-based working?
And, conversely, isn’t the domestic kitchen learning more quickly from the workplace, with kids working on their laptops at the breakfast counter and the new smart fridges telling you your milk has run out?