Merrett Houmøller Architects creates pop-up kitchen for refugees and asylum seekers

Merrett Houmøller Architects designed this mobile kitchen and pop-up dining facility as a base for the Refugees and Befriending Project run by the British Red Cross in London.

Merrett Houmøller Architects Befriending Kitchen for the British Red Cross

The London-based practice approached the British Red Cross with its idea for the structure named the Befriending Kitchen. It’s used by the humanitarian organisation as a base for its programme that brings together young asylum seekers and refugees once a week to share a meal.

The brightly coloured demountable modules that make up the kitchen and dining facilities provide a vibrant alternative to the programme’s previous home in an uninspiring office.

The design also allows the project to be moved around the city, expanding the reach of the programme.

Merrett Houmøller Architects Befriending Kitchen for the British Red Cross

“As a profession, we architects have a tendency to shy away from questions of social change, instead obsessing over self indulgent form-making,” practice co-founder Peter Merrett told Dezeen.

“[It] was an opportunity for us to engage with the refugee crisis in a direct and tangible way, and perhaps begin to counteract the atmosphere of fear and suspicion that surrounds immigration and the global refugee crisis.”

Merrett Houmøller Architects Befriending Kitchen for the British Red Cross

Each of the two modules contain facilities for cooking, preparation and cleaning, including a gas hob, sink and serving area, as well as storage space for the folding tables and benches.

When unpacked the two units enclose an informal dining area for up to 30 people.

“Meal times have a universal familiarity that all people can share in. As we attempt to address the shared tensions and aspirations either side of political borders, where better place to start than by sharing a meal?”, said Merrett.

Merrett Houmøller Architects Befriending Kitchen for the British Red Cross

The creation of the modules was a collaborative effort with Merrett Houmøller Architects working closely with both the British Red Cross and Royal Institute of British Architects.

A colourful interpretation of nautical signal flags, which were themselves devised to overcome language barriers, the bright graphics were designed with volunteers from the RIBA Young People’s Forum.

Merrett Houmøller Architects Befriending Kitchen for the British Red Cross

Fabrication, decoration and assembly of the units, was undertaken with the assistance of volunteers from the forum and the Red Cross.

The collaboration with RIBA came about as the practice’s initial idea was sparked by the organisation’s open call for “ideas that go beyond borders“.

Merrett Houmøller Architects Befriending Kitchen for the British Red Cross

The Befriending Kitchen was launched on the terrace of RIBA’s headquarters in London before being handed over to the British Red Cross. It is currently located in the courtyard of the organisation’s Hackney destitution centre in east London.

Photography is by Francis Ware.

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