[ Table for 100’s ] | Luísa Alpalhão

Luísa Alpalhão
[ Table for 100’s ]

Apresentação | debate | jantar luso-nipónico
Centro das Artes Culinárias / Mercado de Sta. Clara, Lisboa
18 Janeiro [4ªfeira] / 19h30 > 22h
€6 euros por pessoa / marcação até dia 16.01 através do email: atelier.urban.nomads@gmail.com

‘They are merchants who belong to the race of the Barbarians of the South. (…) they are completely ignorant of the laws of etiquette. They drink without cups, they eat without chopsticks, and they pick up food with their hands.’
from the brush of the bonze Nampo Bushi, Tanegashima, 1543

As the visitor meanders between a semi-public, semi-private space from the ground floor to the rooftop of one of the few reminiscent industrial buildings, konya2023, in the centre of Fukuoka, historical, cultural and spatial connections between the country of the Barbarians of the South  and the country whose cultural delicacy cannot be found in any other nation come together in [ Table for 100’s ], a project that connects two distinct cultures through food and the spaces around it.     

| to taste aka cultural & historical connections |
Portugal and Japan have had a long-term historical connection that dates back to the 16th century. As stated in Bouvier’s The Japanese Chronicles [1] the image of the Portuguese wasn’t always particularly charming. Today, when people ask ‘Dochira desu ka?’ followed by ‘Porutogaru’ as my reply, the words ‘kasutera’ and ‘Nagasaki’ are immediately spilled out and a genuine smile illuminates the inquirer’s face. The list of dishes and words that resulted from the cultural exchanges between the two countries over the years when Portuguese Jesuit Missionaries inhabited places like Nagasaki and Kagoshima is long and surprising. New dishes have emerged, new flavors and unusual eating habits have been discovered.
Food can be used as the template for multicultural conversations anywhere in the world as people can easily relate to the theme in one way or another. It can also easily be used as a design tool for social projects. It is at the Table that people get together to talk and enjoy each others company regardless of religion or age, nationality or background.
[ Table for 100’s ] is by no means a project solely about design, but a project that triggered many discussions on food, on people’s eating habits and on history. Some of the statements written by Luís Fróis’ on the 16th century ‘Tratado das contradições e diferenças de costumes entre a Europa e o Japão’ [3] were reviewed and contradicted to portray Japanese and European (Portuguese) contemporary society. With no more then a few words, in English and in Japanese, this topic has enough substance for a mutual understanding and leads us to several activities (workshops with children, narratives by adults, correspondence exchanges) and some of the artworks exhibited ([Mix and match] or [LA >> LF : 2011 >> 1563]) beyond the Table itself. More then a product, [ Table for 100’s ] is what could be called a diplomatic tool, a didactic project for all who were part of the team, for the participants and for the visitors.
All research done before and during the design stage was used as the raw material for the several different pieces on the exhibition.

| to touch aka participation, a collective project |
The exhibition’s layout follows a narrative that relates to the times of the day (and the corresponding meals), and the five senses. The visitor is invited to participate from the very start of the route.
There is often a limbo between the artwork and the art consumer. This results from a person’s (the artist’s) personal representation of something that is likely to be unfamiliar to the viewer leading to a lack of understanding of the artwork, possibly an attitude of indifference.
[ Table for 100’s ] avoids adopting an individualistic creative process. It results from a participative approach to design from the conceptual stage to the presentation stage. It invites people to join in and make the project their own, as much as mine, and allows them to recognize their input at all different levels.
Ownership of a product/space/project is one of the qualities that can ensure its success; as the designer is the everyday person who will proudly talk about his work, who will carefully look after it and help maintain it. That is achieved through participative design. It is a way of designing that should grow from micro to macro, from the scale of this Table, to the planning of a city’s public spaces, as seen in Van Eyck’s [4] playgrounds in Amsterdam. It is a design strategy that results from the close link between design and user.

| to see aka materials, a consumer’s society |
In a society where consumption has long reached excess, waste that results from unnecessary over-packaging, under-used materials (often used in temporary exhibitions and then trashed) and food waste has been a recurrent theme in my work. Following Rural Studio [5] or Koeberling and Kaltwasser’s [6] principles my designs have adopted a reverse design approach to the conventional one. The design concept of a project demands a ‘Material Bank’. People become involved in the project through the donation of materials they no longer use that might contribute to the construction of the space/object. These will then inform the design, the plans, elevations and sections.
It is a way of re-inventing waste materials, getting people to participate (often encountering pieces of their belongings in the final product) and reducing costs.
With [ Table for 100’s  ] a ‘Material Bank’ was set up at the start and people donated several materials that were used on the construction and inhabitation of the Table, as well as on the smaller artworks.
This method of design challenges Japanese aesthetics that have been so well described by Moraes [7], Barthes [8] and Tanizaki [9], and questions their passion for wrapping that translates in over-excessive packaging and waste. Japanese culture is no doubt one of the most harmony aware cultures. It’s not an enforced quality, but the result of the artistry that has been intrinsic to this nation for many generations. It was emphasized during the Edo period where the Japanese became the most exquisite artisans and artists, mastering technique, producing beautiful and delicate works. [ Table for 100’s  ] is of a rough aesthetic and, though carefully put together by skilled (and fast) Japanese carpenters, it does not relate to any of the work by contemporary Japanese designers or architects. Instead, it relates to an image of Japan that is not often portrayed but can be found in small villages like Wajima, or costal towns like Hakodate, where the house owner is also the builder, where urban planning is not a known concept and an eclectic collection of materials leads to the most extraordinary contemporary vernacular architecture juxtapositions. 

| to listen aka dining narratives |
For a project to gain what in Japan is called cocoro (heart and soul) it needs to go beyond the object or space; it must inherit and embed people’s stories so it can reflect everyday moments one can relate to creating a series of parallel narratives under the same theme. ‘Dining Stories’ was the base that gave soul to the project. Food was the theme. Spaces, objects and people around it were the pieces of the jigsaw that lead to the Table’s narratives in a Perec style [10]  where attention to detail was key. Correspondents from Japan and Portugal were asked to write about their dining routines and a collection of illustrated narratives was put together helping define the form and contours of [ Table for 100’s  ]. It was another way of getting people involved, to make them reflect on their habits and to get them to participate in the project, so when the Table was built they could find the corner of their dining room where they have breakfast, the desk at the office, the counter of the isakaya. ‘Dining stories’ information was also used as the base material for some of the other works where the visitor could find parallel fragments of people’s dining habits at different times of the day ([24 Hour Dining People]) or recurrent ingredients described on the most eaten dishes ([Can you smell it?]).

| to smell aka unravelling, appropriation of public spaces |
I would like to think of [ Table for 100’s ] as what could be called ‘Bento Architecture’, a variation of Atelier Bow Wow’s ‘Pet Architecture’ [11].
Home-made Bento are beautifully wrapped lunch boxes (with Furoshiki, a simple and versatile large patterned cloth) that often contain leftovers and new food, carefully put together in small partitions, with the five essential colors a meal should have to give one all the necessary ingredients to be healthy. Each small portion is a surprise by itself, as it has its own flavor and beauty, but once put together all partitions form a delicious and rich meal that mixes old and new.
[ Table for 100’s ] is the result of the layering  of knowledge acquired theoretically, but mostly results from life observations and conversations, from an empirical experience. It is an overlaying of stories, and a joint effort that led to an object-space that brings new activities to the city, makes use of a space and materials that would otherwise be neglected and disposed. [ Table for 100’s ] is a mediator between art and architecture through participation and represents an alternative way that can help rejuvenating certain parts of cities in response to the contemporary scenario where the world is in economic crises and people are becoming more individualistic on a daily basis. Small-scale participative and pro-active projects may become more effective then starchitecture constructions as they become part of people’s everyday lives.

[ Table for 100’s ] exhibition and installation | konya2023 | fukuoka | japan
111111 > 111130 www.tablefor100s.wordpress.com


[1] BOUVIER, Nicolas; The Japanese Chronicles; London, Eland Publishing Limited, 2008 
[2] HEARN, Lafcadio; O Japão uma antologia de escritos sobre o país, Lisboa, Edições Cotovia Ltda, 2005
[3] FRÓIS, Luís; Tratado das contradições e diferenças de costumes entre a Europa e o Japão, Macau, Instituto Português do Oriente, 2001
[4] VAN EYCK, Aldo; Aldo Van Eyck: Works, 1944-99; Basel, Birkhauser Verlag AG, 1999
[5] OPPENHEIMER, Andrea; Rural Studio: Samuel Mockbee and an Architecture of Decency; New York, Princeton Architectural Press, 2002
[6] KOERBERLING, Folke; KALTWASSER, Martin; Ressource Stadt - City as a Resource: One Mans Trash is Anothers Treasure; Berlin, Jovis, 2006
[7] MORAES, Wenceslau de; Dança das Borboletas; Lisboa, O Independente, 1999
[8] BARTHES Roland; Empire of Signs; Australia, Anchor Books, 2005
[9] TANIZAKI, Junichiro; In Praise of Shadows; London, Vintage Classics, 2001
[10] PEREC, Georges; Life: a user’s manual; London, Vintage Classics, 2003 
[11] ATELIER BOW BOW; Pet Architecture Guide Book; Japan, World Photo Press, 2002


Luísa Alpalhão
Born in Lisbon, 1984. Luísa completed her BSc(Hons) in Architecture from the University of East London, followed by an MA in Architecture at the Royal College of Art, London. She is currently doing a PhD at the Bartlett, University College of London on Architecture, Art and Participation in relation to the way immigrant communities occupy public spaces in Lisbon. Luísa is also the founder of the multi-disciplinary collective atelier urban nomads. (www.atelierurbannomads.org).