DUBAI: One of the viral images that emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic came from Amsterdam, where restaurant diners were seen privately cocooned in elegant little greenhouses — a fitting concept for the world’s current state of social distancing.
They’re called “Serres Séparées,” a French term meaning “separate greenhouses,” and thanks to their creator, the Dutch multipurpose cultural hub Mediamatic, a number of these greenhouses were presented for dining in this month’s sixth edition of Dubai Design Week, where design meets function.
“It has that kind of playful intimacy, like little kids playing in a hut or being together in a treehouse,” Mediamatic founder and designer Willem Velthoven told Arab News. “At the same time, it combines with the visibility of seeing and being seen going out, which is a social desire that we share.”
Each greenhouse can accommodate between two and four guests, served by protected staff that regularly carry out an efficient cleaning cycle between services. Without entering the greenhouse’s interior, the server introduces plates and bowls of food on long wooden planks, replaced after each meal.
“The core of hospitality is that you make people really comfortable and enjoy — rather than giving them tasks. If you go out dining, you want to be pampered and really enjoy the luxury of being taken care off,” Velthoven said of the service the team strives to provide.
In the Dubai (as well as Amsterdam’s) version of the greenhouses, all served meals are plant-based. Prepared by Dubai Design District’s Molecule Bistro Royal, the vegan menu is a conscious decision, especially now. “It’s relating to COVID-19,” explained Velthoven. “Humanity as a whole is endangering itself through this habit of growing animals in enormous herds by industry. It’s something we should give more thought to.”
One of the creative effects of the pandemic is how designers and architects are rethinking spaces where people work, live and interact in.
Open-minded and experimental, Velthoven is one of them. “It’s a normal cultural evolution that we’re going through. Apart from the pain and damage, it’s also stimulating and inspiring,” he said.
“A crisis is always accelerating new developments and discoveries. As a designer, I’m always curious to see what I can learn in times of crisis.”