du cafe / un cafe
Spring 2017 Topic Studio at UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design
Instructor: Laurel Consuelo Broughton
Thank you to Michael Beggs, Spencer Collom, Ryan Conroy, Emily Gallivan, Christopher Gomez, Liza Karimova, Sun young Kwon, Honglin Li, Alisa Nadolishny, Jing Qian, James Skarzenski, Katherine Ubben, Yiqi Wang and Zhaouan Wang.
The consideration of where we eat, what we eat, how we eat it, and in whose company is profoundly human. Today “eating out,” as it is colloquially known, has become a basic fact of daily urban living. Whether in an environment that is fast or considered, solo or social, the typology of the “restaurant” seems ripe for investigation. According to historian Rebecca L. Spang, “Centuries before a restaurant was a place to eat (and even several decades after), a restaurant was a thing to eat.” Originating not unlike a modern day health craze, a restaurant in 18th century Paris was a rich meat broth thought to have soothing and restorative properties for the infirm. In France at this time, all products but especially prepared foods were governed by strict guilds and laws that kept them separate. Shops such as the charcuterie, the cheese monger, and the patisserie sold prepared foods only within their category. A full meal could only be procured at the table d’hôte (host’s table) of an inn or a caterer. These full meals would occur at one specified time per day with seating at a large common table and the food served family-style for a set fee. Importantly, these meals were a group affair. Selling restaurants (broths) fell into a liminal space, neither shop nor host’s table. Because they were sold to the feeble, it made sense to provide a place for the restaurant (broths) to be consumed while hot whenever a customer appeared. In order to legally operate, restauranteurs needed to distinguish themselves from the shop and the host’s table. And it was out of this need for individuality that a new spatial construct for dining was invented— small individual tables or even individual cabinets or rooms, a menu that listed all the broths available and their prices, and a waiter who attended to each table as required. The restaurant cannot be separated from the thing served, the arrangement of its space, the graphic translation of information, and the performance of the service.
And so, at its core, the restaurant is still a space of everyday performance and ritual and a scaled system of architecture and design. It is this scaled system of design from environment to object that is of primary interest to this studio. We will use the staging of ritual and performance and the attendant objects and spaces that make it possible to examine culture, and architecture and design’s role in producing it, reinforcing, reordering, and remaking it.
In this the studio, the contemporary term restaurant was used broadly in the beginning— suggesting everything from the worlds of fine dining to food cart at once; this was to allow for the development of our own definition. We considered the elements or parts that make up the material system of a restaurant from spatial relationships to communication devices to the plate itself. In a system, each element is contingent upon the next, thus creating a micro world of experience. We asked: What parts make up a restaurant? What is the bare minimum? Must we define a space? Do we need a wall? A floor? What actions define a restaurant space? Can the gestures or rituals be separated from the objects? Are gestures and rituals designed? What elements are provisional or stage the potentials for use or ritual? And finally, what is it to serve architecture?
Our “restaurants” were 1:1. The studio groups will operated as collectives to produce a total environment. In Restaurant it is architecture itself that is served requiring the guests (jury) to build the space themselves. In Some Rules for Restaurants it is the manners and customs of the restaurant that are examined inside of a stage set and with the use of props.
Each restaurant was performed on May 3, 2017 at the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design.