Zain Al Sharaf Samer Moh'd Wahbeh

"A table (mis) laid:repurposing the orderly apparatus to evoke the disorderly dining experience"

Section MS2, Kelly Spanou

Keywords: architecture, drawing

Since the first line was etched on earth’s jagged topography, humans have territorialised and demarcated boundaries that imposed stringent conventions on the spaces that they inhabited. Henceforth, mankind has performed its rituals within parameters that are defined by floors, walls, frames, and canopies. By conforming to rectilinear moulds of domesticity, architects and urban planners have routinely designed transferrable prototypes of living that get tighter with each passing decade. Where cutlery and napkins are aligned with such precision, a British household’s dining space best epitomises an orderly setting that demands upright posture and the most respectable of table manners. Resultantly, this meticulous dimension coerces its guests into a membership of disquieting compliance and robotic manoeuvres. For these reasons, the dining table was underscored as a case-in-point for further speculation of rigid design principles.

It is well understood that the ergonomics for user experience is considerably stringent in the Eurocentric models of dining. Scrutinising numerous Housing Design Guidelines on dining spaces by Neufert Architects data, London Development Agency, and the HATC has thus revealed a burgeoning collection of prescriptive standards on the relationships between the body and its respective dining environment. Correspondingly, these guidelines have cited 800x1200 mm as a baseline dimension for a dining table for four, which is statistically the average number of members in a European nuclear family. These proportions have since become pivotal to my final intervention.

A Table [Mis]laid demonstrates an attempt to depart from the powerful vortex of standardisation by ironically repurposing the most unexpected ‘software’ simulation to convey an organically chaotic dining scenario from my childhood memories. Using illustrative techniques for more ‘inclusive design scenarios’ as a point of departure, the project has evolved into a stopmotion animation of a dining setting.

This project expresses the transformative potentialities of mediation by consolidating an extensive range of dissimilar choreographies: i.e. mechanical transitions, eating habits and speeds, food portions, personal tastes and preferences. Furthermore, an individuality in personal dining etiquette is represented in each of the four participants at the table, which yields an unforeseen asymmetry throughout the layered frames of the animation. This intervention was carried out intentionally to dispute the ‘human errors’ that are unaccounted for when assigning a dinner’s table dimensions. Instead, A Table [Mis]laid chooses to reintroduce the human dimension in a choreography that challenges the assumption that dining tables are static, uninhabited settings. The ordering principles of the AutoCAD software are then rendered obsolete in rectifying an otherwise chaotic situation.

As the transformative activities of the playing field continue to unfold, its dining compositions become increasingly dynamic, unpredictable, and immediately defy the static conventions of its initially meticulous setup. This alternative environment has been accentuated through carefully timed sound effects, varying frame speeds, and translucent layering. These endeavours have proven to both physically and symbolically emancipate the ritual of dining from its unreasonably stringent expectations. A Table [Mis]laid functions as one of numerous models for the eruption of the irrational in a presumably ordered dimension.