A Multi-functional Mysterious Kitchen

Some say the quality of your kitchen appliances is irrelevant to the quality of your cooking. But, as the ever-growing availability of cooking gadgets illustrates, we apparently like to believe our cooking skills improve by investing in energy-intensive blenders, juicers, steamers and cookers. For the gadget-savvy, Whirlpool has developed a Green Kitchen, which of course, is metaphorically green. The kitchen combines existing technologies to create an intricate web of energy exchanges between the dishwasher, refrigerator, stove and oven, aimed at saving electricity, resources and time.

This kitchen is the embodiment of Industrial Ecology’s (IE) line of thought. IE advocates the study of material and energy flows that result from human activities, and aims to develop solutions to close these material and energy cycles so as to limit their ecological impact to a minimum. Still, this kitchen mostly focuses on energy-efficiency. Efficiency measures can only improve unsustainable practices to a certain extent, since the design of the kitchen does not demand radically different behaviour from its users. Unfortunately, efficiency has its limits.

Therefore, I prefer another kitchen, this Outdoor Kitchen by Nina Tolstrup, and I’ll tell you why. The Outdoor Kitchen radically changes the way users approach their cooking. Cooking outside, in a do-it-yourself manner naturally turns the cooking into a communal experience, assuming you’ll need some extra manpower to carry foodies, and other kitchen utensils outdoors. The flexibility of the kitchen user interface – it can be easily moved in and outside the home, great for the unpredictable Dutch weather – also lowers the threshold to really engage in some classic grilling, smoking and roasting.

Returning to the Green Kitchen, I believe it will not promote cooking creativity. The contrary, by the looks of it, it looks more like a mysterious black box than a microwave. And that’s not the way to go, I’d say.

6 thoughts on “A Multi-functional Mysterious Kitchen

  1. it seems to me that you are comparing apples and oranges. The Whirlpool concept is a real, engineering-driven attempt at energy efficiency. The Outdoor Kitchen is your typical design academy job, cute looking, and screamingly impractical from every ergonomy and safety point of view. If this was a Dutch project, it would come from Design Academy Eindhoven. Are you going to wheel the silly thing around your apartment? Really? How often do you say “gee, today I feel like cooking in my bedroom”. It makes some sense if you have access to the outdoors, I agree.

    Additionally, from a food design point of view, it is useless for grilling (there is no grill), smoking (there is no smoker) and roasting (there is no oven). It would be useful for cooking things in pans and pots. Pasta, pea soup and fish fingers. Don’t get me started on how you would clean it. I think that there is a reason why professional/expensive kitchens are made with certain materials and certain forms, wouldn’t you agree?

    • Hi Walter, thanks for responding to my asymmetrical comparison. I agree with you, that the Outdoor Kitchen might have its practical limits, and the grilling, smoking and roasting capacities were attributed to it too quickly, I should’ve looked into the specs more thoroughly. However, this blogpost, for me, still poses the relevant question whether a sole focus on energy-efficiency will eventually lead to more environmentally friendly food practices. As I’m not a design student myself, but new to the field, I might make some beginner’s mistakes – and that’s why I thank you for contributing to my learning process.

  2. The Whirlpool concept might fit into any simpel container-like living space somebody might like to move into, like: a container (studentg housing), a gardenhouse (tuinhuisje), a riverboat, a tent, a mountain cabin, or a (mini)bus. The important thing missing and a new challenge for Whirlpool is the same modular set-up for the bathroom (WC, shower, washing machine/ dryer). And don’t forget the generator or mobile solar cells. Now you’re ready for nomadic living….however do the devices and potential applications also combine in the mind/ heart of the greenish user? ….I doubt it. Maybe it only requires a change of color.

    • Haha. Interesting, also since both food production and consumption, as well as bathing and thermo-comfort (heating) are three key practices that carry a larger ecological burden than necessary, due to our unconscious habits (refrigerator, always heat your house, long showers).

  3. but then, Barbara, it is very hard to decide when moralism and finger-pointing (that typical Dutch habit) starts. Who decides that it is OK to go to a haidresser? And do we need to have clothes in different colors? After all, dyeing textiles is a polluting business, and it does nothing to the insulation qualities of materials.
    Perhaps, just as one could start campaigning for shorter showers, one could start campaigning for no-color clothes. Off-yellow cotton (since to bleach it is environmentally costly), sheep-colored wool, probably white or translucent synthetics.
    I take issue, I take a really big issue, with your use of the adjective “necessary”. Necessary is a category that works in war economies and perhaps on spaceships. In our current world, anybody’s “necessity” is somebody else’s “luxury”.
    As a matter of fact, the very existence of the humanity is an ecological burden.

  4. That’s true, and again, you make me realize how easy assumptions shape one’s writings, based on one’s (in this case: my) subjective and incomplete perspective. And I agree, and know, that sustainability is all about apples and pears, all judgments depend on either system boundaries, or one’s take on the subject. There’s always a larger scale, or systems level out there to compare to, such as “the very existence of the humanity is an ecological burden”. I like the small-scale sustainability initiatives, that inspire people, make them do a double-take, and think along lines they wouldn’t have come up with themselves. That’s not intended to be moralistic, or finger-pointing, because that indeed is a debatable issue (and Nudge, by Thaler & Sunstein, the book that promotes this kind of liberalism), but instead meant to shake up routines. Whatever their outcome, I like those triggers, and for me, they often come to me through design.

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