Tasty design – The Cube visits London

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A view that’s good enough to eat

Before the Jubilee festivities overcame London this extended holiday weekend, we were lucky enough to be invited by Swedish appliance experts Electrolux to check out its Cube restaurant.

In time for London’s summer of excitement (Her Maj’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics are the big players, but there’s so much more going on) The Cube is now perched atop of the Royal Festival Hall on the banks of the river Thames, giving incredible views to match its Michelin starred-food by six of the country’s best chefs.

Although gourmet dining experiences don’t normally constitute our normal blog posts, The Cube is a very special venue. Designed by Michele Rossi of Park Associati, Milan, the ‘flatpack’ restaurant – it seats 18 diners and has a fully fitted Electrolux kitchen – it has the ability to pop up wherever it wants, on a mountain top or in the midst of a bustling city.

Each angular, white Cube takes nine days to assemble in each location and five days to deconstruct – meaning a total of three weeks between the appearance at one site and the next, including transportation.

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Having already cropped up in Milan, Stockholm and Brussels, it’s in London till 30 September – we can’t recommend it enough, both for the design-related experience and the incredible food.


In an interview with Electrolux’s delightful PR team, The Cube’s designer Michele Rossi answered a few questions about the project:

What were the key considerations for this project?
The brief was to design a demountable, itinerant semi-transparent work of architecture that could appear on the roofs of buildings and monuments in some of Europe’s most alluring cities such as Stockholm, St Petersburg, Brussels and Milan as well as in natural locations of extraordinary beauty. We worked together with Studio FM Milano in developing the perforated aluminium skin. These were our first key points for the project:
• To create a module that adapts perfectly to any climate, even the most extreme, while always expressing the maximum in living comfort with its refined aesthetics and use of high-quality materials.
• To design a space that is able to be flexible enough to give the customers a unique experience during their meals. We didn’t want to only have a table and a kitchen.
• To create a strong visual iconic architecture. We want that The Cube to be visible and memorable in the different locations and to be able to each time create, even if for a short period of time, a visual long-lasting impact to the places.

– Is this the first time you have designed a restaurant?
This is not the first time that we have designed a restaurant, but ‘The Cube’ is not only a restaurant. It’s something unique. It has so many aspects to consider. The function ‘restaurant’ is only one of many.

– What does the structure mean to you?
The Cube is actually not a cube. Electrolux has established in the past years a strong brand relationship with the concept of the ‘White Box’. We already worked around this concept for the Electrolux Exhibition at the Salone del Mobile 2010 in Milan. In that project, as well as in this one, our project team tried in some way to work out this concept by giving it a geometrical twist. This was done by giving the shape a dynamic aspect that a mere cube figure would not have. The name Cube came after, and I believe describes more the idea of a box that is laid in different locations than the geometrical shape.

– What has been the biggest challenge?
To keep the quality of design and attention to details that we wanted in the concept phase through all the technical difficulties that arose during the construction time.

– Are there are specific firsts for this project?
All of the Cube is a 1st… but yes, there are some materials that are really new. The floors for both the exterior terrace, and the interior, is a deck made of recycled wood floor from selected waste from the wood industry and an eco-friendly plastic component which helps protect and make it waterproof. This material was developed in Venice, and was started with the idea of finding an innovative and ecological alternative to wood that could be used in the Venice lagoon.

We are actually also working on using hydrogen fuel cell generator for all the locations where electricity will not be easily available. This generator will be a completely new field of use for a technology developed at the moment for scooters and cars. But, of course, the really absolutely new thing is the whole project concept – giving Electrolux consumers the possibilities to dine with a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ view.

– What materials are you using and what influenced your choice?
We received the request from Electrolux to work according to the company’s Scandinavian design heritage, which mainly uses white colour. So everything, with the exception of floors, is white. For example, the Cube is covered by a white laser-cut aluminium skin. The interior is mainly ice-white Corian™ and a combination of matt and glossy lacquered wood. We were afraid of designing a cold interior atmosphere and so we proposed the wood floor and a carpet under the dining table. This will help to ‘warm up’ the ambient and give the room a better acoustic.

– How long will it take to assemble and deconstruct the cube for use and how many people would be involved?
At the moment, the programme is 9 days to assemble The Cube and 5 days to deconstruct it. So we are working on a total of 3 weeks between on site and the next one including transportation. The dedicated staff will be of around 18 people.

– What sort of experience do you want the diners to have in the Cube?
We designed the Electrolux Cube with the idea that every thing has to be very special. Location, atmosphere, view, food, everything is very unique. But we also designed a kind of storyboard of a typical night, in order to imagine how the visitors would feel leave the experience. The space itself changes during the evening. When the customers come, the dining table is be set up, but floating in the air. A welcoming drink is offered in the terrace or inside. Then the table theatrically comes down and the dinner is served. At the end of the meal, the table is raised again to create a lounge set.

– How environmentally friendly is the Cube and in what way did such thinking bring challenges/opportunities?
The Electrolux Cube project was a very difficult project to keep ‘green’. Our first issue was to work with only recyclable materials and now we can say that when the Cube will come to the end of its natural life, all the materials will be 100% recycled.

The second big issue was to try to provide as much as possible of the requested energy from ‘green’ sources. We will have a wind turbine and hydrogen fuel cell generator. We are also working on a very efficient waste management plan.

– What difference do you think your creation will bring to the city-scapes and landscapes it will stand in – is it harmonious for all types of setting?
The Cube, like a beautiful object, will sit on the various places. Every time this will generate a different impact. It was not designed to be hidden, nor completely integrated, in the different locations. It will be more like a big lamp that will light that specific site for a short period of time. One of the most exciting things of the entire project will be to discover in every place how this big light will enhance the landscape.

– Were there any special considerations for designing the space for the kitchen appliances and for interaction between chefs and diners?
The kitchen (with only Electrolux appliances) is designed to be the centre of the whole project. The chef will work more like in a show cooking set than as a normal restaurant. We want the chef to be part of the evening. We want to create the same relationship that you can find when you cook for your friends: no barriers and the concept of cooking as a social thing.