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Essential Recipes for Serendipity

MA Architecture Dissertation. 

Royal College of Art

10,000 words

Supervisor: Barry Curtis


The subject of this text defines a field of tension between no design and over-design that enables or triggers an emotional and creative response. Themes that are complicit to this field include incompletion, efficiency, imperfection, minimalism, reduction, structure, humour and panache. It is not an absolute notion.

Edouarde de Pomiane is my central figure whose book Cooking in 10 Minutes has sparked a need to define the generous and philosophical essence of his cookery writing that embraces contradiction, rubs opposites against each other and creates visceral social experiences within tight constraints. He has designed his meals for a desired effect. He’s not trying too hard to impress and is not ostentatious. He is however, persuasive and performative. Pomiane makes modesty attractive with his recipes that are about focused and intimate togetherness as opposed to aloof foodyism. 

Pomiane has initiated for me a comparison between hospitality associated with food and that of architectural practice. As well as highlighting the extent to which structures can be made tangible to audiences, occupants or dining guests of authorial voices within the realm of specialists’ fields.

I have included on the menu professionals of various expertise, including Pomiane, Donald Woods Winnicott, Grete Schütte Lihotzky, Marie Kondo and George Perec. They have addressed a topic of their own field, interpreted it through experience and contemplation, and been compelled to relay that interpretation to an audience. I have also included accounts of my own personal experience, utilising techniques from this collection of writers. 

The meal that I’m serving is sequential. It combines these characters of different disciplines to try and draw your attention towards a common but elusive flavour. Parts of the meal are not delicious, but are included for the complimentary and emphasising quality of antitheses. 

There is hearty guidance from a scientist and cook, a refreshing psychoanalyst’s support, lean modernists, some saccharine musical role play, oysters and chipolatas, over-the-top kitchens, intricate observers and somewhat sour self-help writers. I have put them in an order to awaken your appetite.

I haven’t gone into detail about a lot of specific buildings but I have thought mainly about architectural conditions - scale, form, lights and darks. There are things that are methodical and rational and there are elements that are human and chaotic, but it is the sweet spot at which these opposite tastes synchronise that I am interested in. 

Throughout this essay I have adopted the colloquial writing and speaking style synonymous with the experts that I’ve brought together. That includes apostrophes in words like couldn’t, wouldn’t, won’t, can’t, daren’t, shan’t and shouldn’t. Probably to get you, the reader, on my side. I want this text to be imperfect to give myself and you the chance to interpret the dishes that I’ve assembled, leaving space to think and fulfill.

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Chapter 1: Edouarde de Pomiane’s Minimal Hedonism

Chapter 2: Winnicott the ‘Ordinary’ ‘Devoted’ Architect

Chapter 3: An American in Paris and Ridiculous Gadgets

Chapter 4: A Dinner Table as a Stage in Low Light

Chapter 5: Marie Kondo’s Home Organisation or Organising the World

Chapter 6: Georges Perec’s Ordered Knick Knacks

Chapter 7: Oysters and Chipolatas or Conclusion

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