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Architecture (MA)

Lok Lam Ma

Lok Lam gained her BSc at the University of Bath and worked as an architectural assistant at Ronald Lu & Partners and LWK & Partners in Hong Kong. She worked on various projects, including mixed commercial projects, high-rise residential and British boarding schools in China. She is also active in the local art scene. Exhibiting in M+ Hong Kong and volunteering at Hong Kong Art Centre public art events in her free time.

She is intrigued by interaction modalities between people and their social and contextual circumstances. Following her exploration of solo urban accommodation in ADS0 last year, she continues to find effective ways to subvert un-belonging and solitude in contemporary societies by connecting people through food. This year started by depicting Microsoft’s approach to encourage collaborations when designing the interior and exterior space on the Redmond Campus. The provision of free food in tech companies inspired her to become engaged with how communal cooking and eating can shape a more inclusive and connected urban environment.

Since her summer internship at Tony Ip Green Architects, her interest in sustainability and adaptability has grown. She continued her environmental design studies in Bath, which made Lok Lam achieve the “Passivhaus consultant and designer” title in 2021.

model in a house shape

The cost-of-living crisis and energy crisis put pressure on the UK population, October 2022 saw a 11.1%inflation rate. Food banks and soup kitchen are under pressure. On the flip side, 1/3 of the food is wasted in the industrial food sector. This project aims to turn food from a commodity to a common good and propose an architectural space for informal food exchange. The proposition will draw reference from existing food related programme in the commercial, public, and collective realm: to seek a common ground between these 3 sectors and merge into a collective kitchen and dining space for the community.

Collective kitchen can be a revolutionary form act of care, a bottom-up networks of care for a group of neighbours. The collective kitchen links up different stages of the food system: from supply to demand, waste to upcycle and grocery to meals. The communal agency blurs the boundaries of private and public and encourages participants to connect and collaborate. The act of commensality of sharing food with others started in ancient tribes which become less prevalent in modern Britain. The dining table is where a family gets together to share and discuss about things, yet only 13% of British sit at the table to have a meal. Single occupants often make simple meals at home or get takeouts to save time.

As we enter the post-covid era, critical commensality is essential for social and ecological care. Adopting pre-existing infrastructure and reinventing ways of communal cooking, a new typology of community kitchen for single occupants can be revolutionary care for people’s basic food and social needs. Instead of solving the loneliness pandemic with co-housing which can lead to more conflict. The proposed kitchen is in a residential area, acting as an extension to one’s existing homes. Residents can subscribe to the kitchen and use it whenever they want. 

The design breaks the dichotomy of public and private, bringing a private act of cooking into the public space. It is not a domestic kitchen or a commercial restaurant. The project resists the commercialisation of food gathering and encourages multicultural communities to cook and gather in the post-covid era.

coffee house
17th century London coffee houseThe intent of the building is to support this process providing a platform for people to encounter; breaking down social divisions and allowing people to bond. The cooking and eating space became a theatrical space for more intimate conversations and a platform to resolve issues. The cooking common provides an alternative setting to home and restaurants for the community to grow through making and eating communal meals. The building became an intercultural conversation ground.
elderly members of the community regularly cook meals for local children
Anna Puigjaner’s Kitchenless City collective kitchen in Saitama, JapanA group of elder women noticed that the children were eating poorly, and decided to start cooking for them in a kitchen within an office. Similar support groups are found all over the world such as Singapore, Peru, and Mexico, while some might receive government subsidies, most of the groups are bottom-up. It is interesting to see how the proposal can facilitate these support groups.
commercial kitchen
Mission Kitchen, LondonMission Kitchen is a coworking space for food-related businesses. It allows start-ups to rent kitchen spaces and use commercial cooking equipment which could be too expensive for them to purchase. Users pay a membership fee or a one-off rental price depending on the space they required. There is a range of spaces available: a development kitchen, a bay in the communal kitchen for hourly rental, a private kitchen for monthly rental, co-working, and event spaces. However, the prices might not be affordable.
Potential Practice Model
Potential Practice ModelInstead of having separated entities shown in the archive, is there a way to build a new cooking dining space that encourage the public, social and collective sector can enjoy. The cooking common is a place to prepare and eat food collectively. The cooking common will consist of a few commercial kitchen stations, a development kitchen, a dining area, and storage facilities. It is important to note that the designer only produces a framework for the programme, commoners can change and tailor it to their use.

Hackney and Dalston is a place popular for migrants, the community is accepting of migrants. The major migrant group is whites from Australia, the US, and other European countries, other groups include African Caribbean, and East Asian. The restaurants in the neighborhood are very diverse too with fast food chicken and burger shops, Caribbean grills, and Asian restaurants such as Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese. In the design, there is a north-south divide, thriving new communities in the south and a quiet north. Some of the shops are closed, and most of the restaurants are open for takeaways. The play area in the park is used, by some couples and small groups. The pub is very quiet with only 2 tables occupied. In the basin residential development, there is a Japanese restaurant with homemade food and a children’s play area. It is very popular among workers and families. The tow path café and route café are widely used by community groups of under 4 people mainly females catching up with 1 or 2 friends.

site photos
inverted atrium in triangular building
Form takes shape of the siteThe form of the building takes the shape of the site with an inverted atrium that connects different floor plates together, allowing users to interact.
inverted atrium in triangular building and hemisphere roof
The extensive skylight suggests a space that is connected to the outside. The cooking action is happening under daylight.

The proposed building takes the shape of the site with a footprint of 890sqm, a community garden on the north of the building and space for a pop-up market at the NE corner. The community garden has a small allotment for members to grow food and spaces for outdoor dining in the summer. The pop-up market allows for farmer's markets and food-related events. The building style is a mixture of industrial, domestic, and public. The industrial style reflects the legacy of the working-class population in the area. It draws reference from the small factories and warehouses in the surrounding.

The design breaks the dichotomy between public and private. The most interesting public space is one that can introduce the domestic. The large building is broken down into 5 segments; each segment is the width of 2 terrace houses. The procedure by which architecture separated domestic life from the public sphere was and still is particularly problematic for women. This resulted in the isolation of women in single-family apartments, turning their work invisible and undermining their agency in the political sphere. 

cooking and dining table
model photo
model photo
model photo zoom in

Since 2014, Microsoft has been trying to encourage collaboration and sharing of knowledge across departments. The Microsoft Redmond Campus encapsulate the ethos of each era. From the individuality in the department office design to the latest hybrid meeting rooms for video call meetings. The diorama depicts the variety of spaces and collaborative opportunities provided on campus, indoors and outdoors. Employees can move around the office freely depending on the level of concentration and focus they need to complete a task. The diorama draws inspiration from Building 83 and B40+41 courtyard designed by Bora architects. It studies the tools Microsoft used to domesticate the corporate environment, including interior textiles, game room and semi-outdoor meeting hubs.