Three years ago, on New Year’s Eve in Havana, artist José Parlá introduced Craig Dykers, a founding partner of the architecture firm Snøhetta, to Jon Gray, one-third of the Bronx-based chef troupe Ghetto Gastro. The two began what would become an ongoing conversation about the intersection of food and the built environment, a dialogue now manifest in the real world at the newly completed Burnside, an intimate, flexible café and culinary event space for the Tokyo creative agency En One. (Health restrictions have prevented Burnside from kicking off its programming schedule, which will be solidified once the pandemic lockdown lifts.)
Ghetto Gastro is a food collective that uses cooking to activate conversations around food inequality, race, and class. The group served as both muse and close collaborator on the project’s design, which was envisioned by a Snøhetta team led by Anne-Rachel Schiffmann and Mzwakhe Ndlovu, with help from the local firm Kooo Architects. We spoke with Dykers about how the designers expressed the ethos of Ghetto Gastro, which will be among the first groups to hold court in the Burnside kitchen, once it’s safe to do so.
How did Ghetto Gastro’s work inform Burnside’s design?
Ghetto Gastro’s understanding of food is multidimensional, encompassing everything from art to gymnastics. They don’t think their job is just about making food. It’s about building culture into their craft, and changing up the way they present their work all the time. That makes them different from traditional chefs.
This approach is reflected in building the kitchen behind a proscenium arch, like one you would find in a theater, with an actual curtain-like structure that slides open to [reveal] the stage that is the kitchen. Ghetto Gastro is very exciting to watch when they’re cooking, so we built a whole narrative around that, with the kitchen metaphorically extending into the dining room along the catwalk-like main table.
Then there’s the bold blackness of the space. It’s rare to use black in architecture, but working with Ghetto Gastro gave us the confidence to explore that powerful color, and we’ve seen its strength in a new way.
Ghetto Gastro, who describe themselves as the “Black Power Kitchen,” forge connections between marginalized communities and cultures. Did you incorporate these ideas into Burnside?
Most of us in the design world take intercultural connections for granted, but the communities that Ghetto Gastro represents haven’t been given the same privileges. At Burnside, we connect qualities from the Bronx with other world cultures in a space where they can feed off of each other.
We want Burnside to build upon that cross-cultural intersection in both directions. For example, there’s [Makoto] Azuma’s floral sculpture, handcrafted in a particularly delicate Japanese way, juxtaposed with walls that reference Japan’s traditional [shou sugi ban] charred-wood technique and the dramatic, almost art deco flair seen in buildings in the Bronx that we incorporated into certain forms, such as the arch. Azuma’s piece bridges the now and the historic, just as Ghetto Gastro does with their food. Burnside is definitely not a fusion—it’s about highlighting the intrinsic qualities of individual cultures, and empowering them to stand on their own and together.
It sounds like you learned a lot from this project. What were your main takeaways?
The simplicity of the design was a very powerful learning component. Burnside is essentially one room, but it feels like four: the kitchen, catwalk table, adjacent alcove, and café seating by the window. Each area has very few seats yet displays its own identity. I got to see how potent just a few elements could be.
Working with Ghetto Gastro has given me a lot to think about in terms of how to redesign the social construct of the world, and how to generate moments of hope and light. The project is built around exposing thought and craftsmanship from the Bronx and Black culture that most people have historically overlooked. Burnside is all about trying to push through that by giving power and prominence to the communities that Ghetto Gastro has been working to elevate for some time. The doors are opening, and everyone will be better off because of it.
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Hanna Nova Beatrice is the founder and editor-in-chief of The New Era, a recently launched independent Scandinavian design publication. “It grew out of a strong belief in the [power of] priResidence magazine, prefers to consume media the old-fashioned way, with an eye toward periodicals that innovate on physical page How do you start your mornings?
As the world adapts to pandemic life, we’ve seen creativity heroically emerge, in nearly every sector, amid limitations.Kei Truck Garden Contest in Osaka, which brings nature closer to city-dwellers in the form of compact, foliage-filled creations. (The date for t
For most of us, the urge to bring smartphones into our bedrooms is too strong to resist—even when science, and firsthandattest to the habit’s harmful effects. One way to curb the temptation: Loftie, an alarm clock designed to transform sleep spaces into phone-free sanctuaries. Calibrated for the digital age, the dev
Those visiting Japan’s beloved gardens during the winter might be struck by the sight of trees confined within mysteriouyukitsuri—the term for these intriguing rope webs—is a traditional Japanese gardening technique intended to protect trees’ long b
Design can be a powerful tool in times of crisis, when creativity is a crucial element for survival. At the start of theDesigners Against Coronavirus, and in the fall, took the project a step further by documenting 272 of the works in a book of the same name. Nearly all the resources to publish it, from the paper to securing the copyright for each image, were donated, and the
Formgivning, the Danish word for “design,” serves as both a thesis and a call to action in a new book, Formgiving: An Architectural Future History (Taschen), by the Copenhagen-born architectural practice Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). This is no project-by-project compe