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kitchen kit part 1

March 21, 2008 at 6:12 am

I printed a whole bunch of these “kitchen kits” over the past week. The kitchen in question is, of course, the kitchen at Forbes St. — and these were made specifically for the residents of that house to cut apart and put back together as they choose. (The prints will also be a ‘bonus print’ for print series subscribers, and some will be floating around at my show ! in May.) Making a screenprint with parts that you can cut out & paste together (definitely inspired/spurred on by Jung Il Hong & Brian Chippendale’s silkscreen work in this realm, as well as Meredith Stern’s linocuts) was something I’d wanted to do for a long time, and this doesn’t totally fulfill that need, but it’s a start.

It’s also a start in experimenting with how to give people the tools to make drawings, without making them go through 5 years of architecture school training. An architectural drawing is a great way to communicate and transmit information, and even to facilitate a conversation about ideas for space, but access to that medium has always been limited by technology or specialized skills (even in the pre-computer era). How to communicate about design? How to make a tool that people can both use in group discussions, and take back to their rooms and mess around with on their own? How can we have a conversation that will produce a physical artifact that everyone present has had a chance to modify, that can be referred to in the future as evidence of the process or the decision? How to avoid being, once again, the one in the middle of the room holding the only pencil?

So, the kitchen kits are in the classic poster tradition of ‘large expendable multiples’, as well as in the classic dungeons & dragons tradition of ‘a gridded space over which creatures can move and adventures are had, facilitated by the imagination’. After getting done with the printing (and then sleeping) I kind of couldn’t keep my hands off of it and spent yesterday cutting them up & making a couple of different versions of the Forbes kitchen (past, present, possible future). It was a lot of fun. I had had doubts about the grid (which is 6" squares at the 1/2 inch = 1 foot scale), but in the end it functions pretty well as both a ground to denote what is the interior space of the kitchen, and as a instant measurement device: “wait, only 2 feet between this counter and the wall…. that’s not enough for someone to walk through!”, etc. (To all my architecture professors: Yes, it has the scale on it… you can also cut out the graphic scale and use it to measure things on the drawing!)

This, and hopefully more playful, game-like print/building projects to come, are inspired both by game designers like Jane McGonigal (whose work I barely understand but am pretty excited about), and by the book Housing Without Houses, by Nabeel Hamdi.

Here Hamdi talks about trying to make buildings which involve the users in their creation:

If the setting these buildings provided was to be an invitation to users to participate in creating an architecture of cooperation &#8212 a concept only primitively explored in the days of flexible buildings — then the size, position, and organization of space and materials would also have to perform in more than technically rational ways. They had to reference the choices available, promoting spontaneity and discovery, albeit within the constraints of the materials and systems employed and the legal and regulatory structure. The architecture of possibilities, in other words, would need to be legible and opportunistic, and yet remain technically rational.

Housing Without Houses, p.73

“Okay, roll the 20-sided die to see how much resistance you get from Code Enforcement….”

The Forbes kids get their hands on the kits this weekend, we’ll see what they do with them…

sticky-paper sheets printed from the same screens will also become coffee-cup stickers for my friend’s travelling espresso machine coffee shop…. yeah!

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