Design workshops at We The Curious part 2

We held a second design workshop at We The Curious in September for family audiences. Following our first workshop about bedrooms and how much private space you might need in a house on Mars, we then thought about what the constructs, functions and purposes of social spaces might be. We focused on food and dining as this often becomes an important focus for socialising in situations where small groups are isolated – such as on the International Space Station, in Mars analogue stations like HI-SEAS, and in more Earthly examples such as in military situations. Mealtimes and mealtime preparation often become important tools to add structure to the day, bring people together and promote group cohesion.

           image: ESA, Sunday Dinner on the International Space Station

image NASA: food inventory at Hi-SEAS, Hawaii

To get people thinking about how different meal times might be on Mars, we had some flour made out of crickets as a conversation starter. We invited people to sit around a dinner table with us and make biscuits, while talking about what their own traditions and rituals were in their homes around food and mealtimes.


People talked about how the social aspects of dining might be important to them and might help to feel at home in another place – for example, specific family traditions to visit a relative’s house for Sunday dinner – perhaps absent relatives could virtually join the dinner table in the future. Some families spoke about how they weren’t often together at mealtimes; people on different schedules, working late, after school hobbies, different social activities.

Hugh Broughton Architects have suggested the approach of activity mapping might help to inform how to design different spaces. Below is an image that maps the use and movements of objects on a dinner table throughout a dinner party. We could potentially use this approach to design pathways through the space in the Martian House based on people’s different needs. As in the example of a busy family on different schedules, you could look at who needs what when in the kitchen/dining space and therefore where furniture and objects could be placed to be used with most ease, and also to encourage moments of social interaction and togetherness. Could the dining table be re-designed as a multi-purpose space for eating, socialising, playing games?

IMAGE: Increasing disorder in a dining table, by Sarah Wigglesworth and Jeremy Till, via deconcrete.

As with all of our design workshops, illustrator Andy Council documented people’s ideas for us. We’ll be taking all of his drawings and documentation of these workshops to a meeting between us, Hugh Broughton Architects and our academic partners Lucy Berthoud and Bob Myhill, in December where we’ll get an overview of all the ideas and decide on the essentials to include.