Tuesday, February 4, 2014


It wasn’t the kind of scene one expected to come across on a chilly winter evening in Paris. Out in the open, on a cobblestone square near the Marais quarter, several people sat at a long wooden table - eating, drinking and talking animatedly.

Not far from the table, other individuals stirred vegetables and noodles at a stove built on wheels, while one young man popped open bottles of wine.

Passers-by were invited to sit and enjoy the delicious-smelling food, with the guests including a former World Bank official, a well-dressed woman and her daughter, a market vendor, a backpacker, an artist and a journalist.

Getting things ready in Paris.
Welcome to “mobile hospitality”, a concept launched by the young Polish furniture designers Ania Rosinke and Maciej Chmara (pictured above) who met when they were both studying architecture and design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk.

The duo, whose chmara.rosinke company is based in Vienna, Austria, travel with their mobile-modular kitchen and dining table to various cities and invite the public to share free meals. Diners have included both the wealthy and the homeless.

In a couple of months, they hope to take their special brand of hospitality to the United States, offering meals in New York. The aim is not only to showcase their cutting-edge furniture, but also to get strangers talking to one another, they said.

Tasshon interviewed them about the project.

Tasshon: How did it start?
Chmara: We were invited to an art and design fair in Western Austria (ArtDesign Feldkirch), to make an ‘intervention’ in urban space, as we are working between design and art, and the urban space medium interests us very much. We didn’t know this area where we had to do the happening very well, so we decided to get to know the people from the area.

All folded up and ready to cook.
We wanted to make something that would create positive provocation. To get to know people better you have to talk, and the best talking you do is at a table. To keep people at the table you need good food, so the idea was born. We built the first prototype in a friend’s cellar in the Austrian mountains and went on to invite people to eat with us. We always did three dishes so that people had to spend two or three hours while having spontaneous discussions with foreigners.
Tasshon: What has the reaction been?
Chmara: The reactions have always been positive; in nearly three years we haven’t had any negative experiences. Sure, sometimes the mix of homeless and more wealthy people can lead to awkward situations, but it has always worked out. People asked us where we would cook over the next days, and they brought us wine, vegetables or homemade marmalade. We still have contact with some guests and several have become friends. It was always difficult to get the first person to sit at our table; once this happened, it didn’t take long until the table was full.
Tasshon: Who contributes to the cooking, serving, etc.?
Friends help to peel vegetables in Paris.
Chmara: We were always cooking on our own, and sometimes in galleries we had guest cooks. In Paris it was actually the first time that a cook really worked with us. It has never been difficult to get some sponsorship from an organic vegetable store or some private person or from companies or galleries, because people liked the idea. Sometimes we also paid for the food on our own.

Tasshon: How many cities have been involved?
Chmara: Dornbirn, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Vienna (Austria) Vaduz (Liechtenstein), Bratislava, Berlin, Milan, Paris, Lodz, Gdynia (Poland)… I for sure have forgotten one or two, but I think this was the most. And if it works out and we manage to organize sponsoring, we will go to New York in April and May.
Tasshon: Do you have other projects as well?
Chmara: Currently we are working on a bar and restaurant for Caritas (an organization that works with vulnerable people) in Vienna. Cooking as a social phenomenon will also play a big role. Besides that, people with social problems that come to Caritas will build together with us together and learn to construct a big of the furniture we’re making.

Checking the ingredients in an earlier project.
We also want to show that Do-it-yourself projects don’t  have to look “rough and ready“, but that you can build high-quality furniture with not much money. Along the way, we want to teach people and give them something to do.

An important aspect in our work is the relationship of people to the work they do with their own hands, looking at the future, at energy problems. In general, we have to develop craftsmanship and manufacturing more regionally and locally, but to achieve this, our approach to design, to our work and craft has to change. Besides that, we are working on many experimental projects that are not client-based.

Tasshon: What has been the best aspect of the project for you personally?
Chmara: The reaction of homeless people has been very nice. They said that normally there is a kind of soup kitchen at which you have to wait half an hour, and you feel very exposed… nobody talks to you and the food comes without any communication. So, many homeless people don’t go to the soup kitchen as they also want to feel respected. They told us that it was a pleasure to sit at a table together to eat, get to know new people and so on.

(Photos courtesy of the designers.)