Beyond Borders: the pop-up kitchen for refugees and asylum seekers

Merrett Houmøller Architects designed a mobile kitchen and pop-up dining as a foundation for the Refugees and Befriending Project managed by British Red Cross in London. The project brings together young asylum seekers and refugees once a week to share a meal.

The vibrant coloured demountable modules that make up the kitchen and dining facilities provide a substitution to the programme’s previous accommodation in a dull office. The mobile design allows the project to move around the city, expanding the scope of the programme.

“It was an opportunity for us to engage with the refugee crisis in a direct and tangible way, and perhaps begin to counteract the atmosphere of fear and suspicion that surrounds immigration and the global refugee crisis”, said the practice’s co-founder Peter Merrett.

The individual modules contain facilities for cooking, preparation and cleaning, including gas hob, sink and serving area, as well as storage space for the folding tables and benches. When extended, the two modules encompass an informal dining area for up to 30 people.

“Meal times have a universal familiarity that all people can share in. As we attempt to address the shared tensions and aspirations either side of political borders, where better place to start than by sharing a meal?”, said Merrett.

The architects worked closely with both the British Red Cross and Royal Institute of British Architects to aid with fabrication, decoration and assembly of the units. Volunteers from RIBA Young People’s Forum helped design the colourful interpretation of nautical signal flags – devised to overcome language barriers.

Photography: Francis Ware

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