Dining Table:

A Memory and a Promise

Open Call for Vienna Design Week 2020

May 2020

Vienna, Austria

Design Team:
Eva Lavranou,
Chaido Kaproulia

Apart from a survival necessity, food has undoubtedly been always a social practice. Eating transcends the boundaries of an individual activity and becomes a tool for social interaction. People meet at a restaurant to enjoy a dinner, invite friends at home to spend time cooking and chatting together. A meal can act as a bonding ritual among people since they tend to focus more on the conversations with the others, discuss new ideas and exchange knowledge or thoughts. After the completion of a dinner with someone, people share a common memory and an intimacy. Moreover, the food conveys culture as the different eating practices shape identities and connections among a community. French philosopher Roland Barthes mentions “food is also a system of communication, a body of images, a protocol of usages, situations and behavior.”

The current pandemic situation that the planet faces has altered radically the way we socialize and communicate with the others. People spend a lot of hours in their homes, often alone. The cafes and the restaurants are either closed or have only a takeaway or delivery service. There is the possibility to go out for walks in the park or in the city but the options of finding places to socialize and gather with people have been diminished since the situation demands social distancing. That of course, affects not only the people who are looking for places to spend time together but also the local economy since a lot of food industries are forced to close down due to the economic burdens which consequently has impact on the producers, the consumers and in the whole neighborhood. 

Public space is a space of random encounters, it has the potential to confront people with people they do not know by chance. People do not invite strangers at their homes, but they meet them in the streets, in the parks, at the cafes and the restaurants. Those encounters are encounters of bodies and bodies carry identities and desires. Today, the physical proximity with bodies is perceived as a potential threat and people tend to alienate. In a crisis like this it is important to consider ways to maintain the public space as a space for social interaction and communication and provide safe places where people can still gather and enjoy random encounters. The previous idea that defined a public space successful if it was dense and crowed it has now faded. Design practices need to offer safe outdoor environments that let beneficial social exchange to happen. Vacant spaces in the city could provide the ground to let these new design ideas take place and enhance experimentation and freedom. 

What if we transferred a domestic typology into the public space? A social distant dining space could transform a vacant lot into a public dining room. The proposal suggests that a round public table will occupy vacant spaces in Vienna and create vibrant public collective dining areas. There are vertical surfaces that divide each seat and guarantee that the social distances are being kept. These surfaces act also as the structural system of the table. There are 12 seats. The table is a metal structure covered with copper of copper as it is considered to be a less friendly material for the virus to survive and can be easily cleaned. The circular shape of the table and the seating bench has been chosen in an attempt to eliminate hierarchy. In this table everybody is equal, and the table is accessible to all the members of the community. People can go there with their lunch or dinner that they prepared at home or bought from a local restaurant to support the economy and enjoy it with other community members or strangers. 

The physical presence of random bodies and the food display itself are parts of the interaction. The vacant spaces can be the new urban domestic landscape that invites people to enjoy food together and fight social isolation.

isola studio
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All images produced by isola unless otherwise specified.