Audrey, Yoann, Antoine and Valentin are working outside in the castle grounds, on a bench and table, under the sun. Yoann is drawing his ideas on paper for the Biceps Cultivatus, a sustainable and eco-friendly kitchen that is very much alive.
They have been friends for seven years and met while studying product design at the Olivier de Serres school of arts in Paris. They went their own separate ways during their post-graduate studies, keeping in touch, and got back together in Paris four years later. «Nah, that’s because we were sick of each other» jokes Antoine. Barely a year has passed between graduation and the POC21 camp, except for Yoann who graduated in june 2012 to everyone’s surprise: « Really? That long ago?» says Audrey. So how do they make a living? Freelancing. «It’s the auto-entrepreneur status or nothing. We don’t have much choice as young designers» Valentin adds. With Yoann they are also part of a young designer’s collective called BAM, centered on social design : «The Internet era we are living in changes the way we interact with one another through the co-creation processes, sharing knowledge and craft».
Our four designers had each been working on a project with a functioning prototype ready when the POC21 call for projects was launched : Audrey was working on food conservation, Antoine on food transformation through mechanical engineering while Valentin and Yoann were both working on an indoor aquaponics system for urban food farming. They all went to the first presentation of the POC21 project last spring in Paris and decided to join forces because «it made sense to merge the three projects into one global solution», in this case, a kitchen. «Although we don’t have the same approach» adds Valentin, «we do have the same goals in terms of finding solutions for a sustainable living».
«if you want to eat fish, it will be right there under the plants. You will have to catch it and kill it yourself but at least, it makes you more aware of the value of food»
The Biceps Cultivatus team is on a mission to finish their prototype by the end fo the five-weeks camp but also to raise awareness. To the question “Where do you see your project going after the camp”, they reply in a matter-of-fact way that they want the project to be improved thanks to the collective inspiration and co-creation but most of all they also want it to raise awareness and make people change their habits: «Being a responsible and eco-friendly citizen starts in the kitchen» says Audrey, «if you want to eat fish, it will be right there under the plants. You will have to catch it and kill it yourself but at least, it makes you more aware of the value of food».
What if large scale manufacturers were to knock on their door? Many Open Source projects started in FabLabs or Makespaces give up on their Open Source ideals to adapt to the industries’s requirements. The question took them by surprise. «It would be nice, sure, says Audrey, but it will be something completely different. We are more focused on making our project available and understandable to everyone. We didn’t invent anything new apart from our design ideas». Yoann adds : «We want to make a Junior Woodchucks Guidebook of our kitchen by the end of the camp so that anyone can make it and build upon it anywhere in the world». Could anyone really make it? More often than not, makers’ projects end up being replicated by makers not necessarily John Doe or your mum, who might not be willing to invest time and efforts into a self-made kitchen. «You don’t have to do it by yourself”, says Yoann. “You may not have all the skills to do it but you can still do it with others in a FabLab for instance and learn about the craft and tools».
They are happy to be here, feeling that they should work more time than what’s planned in the POC21 schedule between the meetings, meals, keynotes and mentor’s days, anxious as they are to meet the deadline with success. Last question for the road: Why do you believe in your idea?
Audrey: «I believe in it because it is technically feasible but also because people, if they are not already changing their lifestyle, will have to do it sooner than they think. Our project is based on these questions: Where does the food I eat come from? How can the kitchen become a food production place? The kitchen can be closer to the act of eating, not only a space with multiple gadgets. It is a living kitchen we’re making. We forgot what it was really like to grow your own tomatoes in a garden or even a balcony. It is hard work. If you only get three tomatoes out of your tomatoe plant they will become precious to you. Because you put so much effort in growing them yourself, you will never let them to rot in your fridge. You’ll be happy to eat them right away».
Yoann: «I believe in it because we waste too much food and we need to change our habits. Food is the best example, people relate to it very quickly as we eat three times a day. We need good food to be in good health. Growing vegetables from the earth right now is a mess with all the pesticides. We need solutions to take better care of our planet with low-tech and eco-friendly devices. Sure, we love our iphones and computers but we need to find a balance in the way we make and use things».
Valentin: «For me it’s not about believing in it or not because I don’t really know the outcome of what we are doing yet. It’s more about making things differently and finding solutions. What I hope for though, is that people will be more aware of the issues we are facing as a species. The fact that we eat pre-cooked meals is pretty sad».
Antoine: «I believe in it because happiness comes from making efforts. That is s why I did these design studies and that is also why I’m taking my bike to travel in Paris instead of the metro. My parents told me that there will always be some people who just want to rest and push a button but I disagree. I saw people make their own stuff for the first time and as naive as it may sound they had a smile on their faces. I’m really concerned about the idea of an individual making a physical effort to create the energy needed to make a product work instead of pushing a button and using electricity. Our project might not be the best way to change behaviours but we still want to make it energy-efficient. Technology is not bad in itself, we just use it in a bad way sometimes, it makes us lazy».