Architectural Theatricality: A food design perspective in hospitality studies

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In the attempt to improve patient treatment and recovery, researchers focus on applying concepts of hospitality to hospitals. Often these concepts are dominated by hotel-metaphors focusing on host–guest relationships or concierge services. Motivated by a project trying to improve patient treatment and recovery through the architecture framing eating experiences, this article examines, from a theoretical perspective, two less debated concepts relating to hospitality called food design and architectural theatricality.

In architectural theory the nineteenth century German architect Gottfried Semper is known for his writings on theatricality, understood as a holistic design approach emphasizing the contextual, cultural, ritual and social meanings rooted in architecture. Relative hereto, the International Food Design Society recently argued, in a similar holistic manner, that the methodology used to provide an aesthetic eating experience includes knowledge on both food and design. Based on a hermeneutic reading of Semper’s theory, our thesis is that this holistic design approach is important when debating concepts of hospitality in hospitals. We use this approach to argue for how ‘food design’ is an overlooked element in hospital eating environments today, and further point at how Semper’s discourse on theatricality can be used to add a more nuanced perspective to future hospitality studies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHospitality & Society
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)189-210
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Hospitality
  • Hospitals
  • Food design
  • Meal experience
  • Architectural theatricality
  • Gottfried Semper


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