Mobile Meeting Ground

There’s a lot going on in a kitchen: cooking, eating, talking, laughing. Cooking and eating together connects people and strengthens their relationships. That’s why there now is a pastel-colored mobile pop-up kitchen in London – a culinary meeting ground for asylum seekers and refugees.

Design and construction of the so-called “Befriending Kitchen” were carried out by Merrett Houmøller Architects in cooperation with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The kitchen serves as a base for the Refugees and Befriending Program initiated by The British Red Cross. The project brings together vulnerable young people who have crossed borders to get to the UK. Once a week they join with British Red Cross volunteers and staff to cook and eat a meal together. Being mobile, the kitchen can be set up in different places, allowing for more people to use it.

The colorful pop-up kitchen consists of two suitcase-like modules that contain everything needed for cooking, preparing and cleaning – including a gas stove, sink and counter, as well as storage room for tables and benches. Once set up, the two modules form an eating area for up to 30 people.

Young volunteers of the RIBA Young People’s Forum painted colorful interpretations of nautical signal flags on the walls, benches and tables. Bright graphics in blue, yellow and rosé distinguish the kitchen from the gray cityscape and offer help to overcome the language barrier.

Social Awareness In Architecture

Peter Merrett, one of the founders of Merrett Houmøller Architects, talking about the social responsibility of architecture: “As a profession, we architects have a tendency to shy away from questions of social change, instead obsessing over self indulgent form-making.” They saw a possibility to respond to the refugee crisis in a direct and tangible way and to counteract the atmosphere of fear and mistrust that encircles the global refugee crisis.

The Befriending Kitchen is a good example of small architectural incisions having a sustainable effect on society when there are just the right dynamics between constructors, architects and young people. The kitchen was launched last year on the terrace of the RIBA’s London headquarters before it was handed over to The British Red Cross. As of today, sociable hobby-chefs can find the pop-up kitchen in the inner courtyard of the Hackney destitution centre in East London.