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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Concepts in Design: Eliminating the Refrigerator

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Do you ever think about your relationship with food? I have to admit, besides when I am writing out my grocery list or planning what to cook for dinner, I don't think much about my "interaction" with food. On the contrary, Korean designer Jihyun Ryou has thought about it a lot. For her thesis project at Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands she interviewed people of older generations and researched the methods people employed to keep their food fresh without refrigeration. She says:
"[Today] we hand over the responsibility of taking care of food to the technology. We don’t observe the food any more and don’t understand how to treat it. My design looks at re-introducing and re-evaluating traditional oral knowledge of food. Furthermore, it aims to bring back the connection between us as human beings and food ingredients as other living beings. I believe that once people are given a tool that triggers their minds and requires a mental effort to use it, new traditions and new rituals can be introduced in our culture."
Ryou's has designed "Knowledge Shelves" that borrow from traditional methods to keep fruits, vegetables, and even eggs, fresh, nutritious, and delicious for longer periods of time. Her wall mounted shelves are designed to utilize natural preservation elements such as: 
  • water for cooling and maintaining humidity
  • darkness for ripening
  • chemical exchanges between organic matter to quicken or delay ripening processes
  • sand to honor the natural tendency of root vegetables to remain upright so their energy isn't depleted fighting horizontal storage
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I am in love with her Knowledge Shelves and how they adhere to one of the most influential design principles of 20th century modern architecture and industrial design: "Form follows function". The minimalist look belies the natural "technologies" going on, while also creating an artistic expression of fruit and vegetables - a piece of art that changes daily through colors ripening and quantities increasing or decreasing as they are eaten or replenished. 

Check out this great video where Ryou explains her motivation and concept so beautifully. I would love to see these shelves become commercially available so I am not forced to either eat food that the refrigerator has sucked the flavor from or throw fruit away that ripened too quickly before I could eat it!

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