Yesterday saw a strange caravan arrive at Bächlihof in Jona. Around 250 students pushed, rolled and carried a total of 52 self-built kitchens to the courtyard to undergo hardness tests. This formed part of the first semester's work in the Architecture, Interior Architecture, Civil Engineering and Building Technology | Energy degree programs. In September, the students were tasked with working in interdisciplinary teams to design and build a mobile kitchen. The task yesterday was to test the functionality of each of the kitchens. The project is an important and labor-intensive part of the students’ first semester.
More than 20 days of work invested in the kitchens
One group whipped up fruit juice using a treadle mixer made from a bicycle wheel and a chain, while another team created a coal-fired steamer due to the kitchen having to function without any electricity. Each of the students put around 180 hours into developing the imaginative solutions, as stringent requirements were placed on the kitchen. The university provided water, coals, crockery and drinks, and there were also medical dressings and band aids on hand for the students’ safety, just in case one of the kitchens turned out to be unsuitable for use with hot coals. All other materials had to be provided by the students. The kitchens naturally had to be fully functional, mobile – in the last half-hour of the project, the students had to be able to transport the kitchens themselves to the event venue – safe and hygienic. They also had to be sustainable; and not just in the choice of the materials used. The students had to cleverly devise a plan to ensure that their entire kitchens or the individual parts could be recycled after undergoing the hardness test, with the sustainability performance being assessed all the way to the waste disposal stage. The quality of the design, the degree of creativity applied and the innovativeness of the kitchen will also contribute to the overall assessment.
Making cotton candy in a tin can
Interior Architecture student Murielle Schumacher loves to cook and was extremely excited about this task. The biggest challenge she faced was communicating with her interdisciplinary team. “Organizing the team was not always a simple matter. Nevertheless, we were happily always able to find a good solution as a group,” explained the student. When designing the kitchen and the menu, the group referred back to “the four elements” of the task. As part of the task, Murielle’s team prepared bread for the starter and cotton candy for dessert. The contraption used to make the cotton candy would have strictly speaking been very simple – it was made from a tin can with holes in it, two gear wheels and a crank lever. Nevertheless, it broke and the team needed to improvise at short notice. Fortunately, they had brought some tools in case of an emergency and were thus able to use a rechargeable drill to provide the rotational movement required.
Introducing students to scientific work
The head of the degree program Christian Zimmermann and his team are responsible for finding a new challenge every year for the students in their first semester. In previous years, students have had to stay overnight in self-made bivouacs and create a luminous floating vehicle that was capable of crossing the Reuss river, for example. The spectacular highlight of finding out whether the students’ designs actually function properly is just one aspect of the work. One of the first goals of the “context module”, according to Christian Zimmermann, is for the students to learn the basics of scientific work. “The first task for the students to carry out is research. There are a great many traditions around the world when it comes to mobile kitchens. The next step of the project is to define the logistical and technical options. The students frequently complain that the task assigned to them is not clear enough; however, we do this deliberately, as this is something that students will have to contend with in their future professional lives. The first thing that has to be established in every transaction is what the customer actually wants. One of the most important aspects of the project is ultimately to learn how to work with others in a team.” Despite the hardness test on Thursday being the highlight of the project, it was not the end of all the hard work, as the students will spend January documenting and evaluating their projects.