Raise your hand if you don't know the people on your block. It's pretty standard for 20- and 30-somethings living in cities to have no idea who lives next door, and to spend more time talking to friends online than face-to-face. What's one solution? Inspired by the fact that kitchens are the heart of a party, a group of designers is proposing a shared public kitchen called "Cook and Connect" where anyone in a neighborhood can drop by and meet new friends.
The designers, a team of architects, product developers, and industrial designers at the Technical University of Munich, think that current trends of isolation will get more pronounced in the next 15 or 20 years:
In a postmodern, technology-avid urban world where citizens become more and more estranged [from] their immediate geographic surrounding, neighbours and relatives, adopting a city-hopping lifestyle, individualization and anonymity have replaced non-virtual social interaction....
Though an increasing mobility allows a rising urban population to move, change cities, and experience new settings, often these geographical changes are job-bound and come with an intense career, where a healthy work-life balance is slowly threatened. The digital advance into all aspects of life has additionally decreased the necessity for non-virtual, local involvement, connectivity with one's setting, the experience of cultures through all senses and specific timeslots that are private, off the grid and unperturbed by the beeping smartphone or the desire for permanent consumption of social networks, emails, entertainment.
Since food brings people together—and everyone needs to eat—the designers saw the kitchen project as an ideal way to give people in a community a chance for interaction they might not otherwise have. They wanted to create a space where people would come from as many different backgrounds as possible; grandmothers, students, work colleagues, immigrants. It's intended to be completely informal. You wouldn't need a membership to show up, and unlike something like cooking classes, there wouldn't be a schedule.
The kitchen would provide state-of-the art equipment, and neighbors would bring their own ingredients (or even better, exchange some with someone they've just met). The design for the space calls for long, shared wooden tables—inspired by Munich's traditional beer gardens, where strangers eat together—and a central sink where people would naturally run into new neighbors.
Right now, it looks like the design is just a concept, but here's hoping it comes to life soon, not just in Munich, but in cities around the world.
This month, we're challenging the GOOD community to host a dinner party and cook a meal that contains fewer ingredients than the number of people on the guest list. Throughout March, we'll share ideas and resources for being more conscious about our food and food systems. Join the conversation at good.is/food and on Twitter at #chewonit.
Original cooking image via Shutterstock; kitchen design courtesy of Jens Pohl, Diana Schneider, Maria Lobisch, Caroline Timm, Philipp Hosp.