The Return of the Gesamtkunstwerk: 'Set the Table', a project within the totality of Space, Place and Spectacle

Anna Marie Fisker, Anna Eva Utke Heilmann, Nini Camilla Bagger

Research output: Contribution to conference without publisher/journalPaper without publisher/journalResearchpeer-review


This paper intends to draw the attention to the process of working with scale and proportions, and put up the question if there is a difference in doing so between design and architecture. Our thesis is that both design and architecture give meaning to shapes by relating them to various scales. Historically when designers and architects make claims about being capable of Gesamtkunstwerk, they talk about being able to design from doorknobs to streetscapes. The same logic underlies the Saarinen Maxim: “Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context – a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.”
The arrival in any city in the world confronts us with cultural differences expressed particularly in architecture, but also in what and how we eat. Every city has its own townscape different from any other, and it is while it is every street, every corner and every alley that creates this townscape, it is also what defines the atmosphere within any specific city. It is to see the highs and the lows and to understand that the totality of it all creates the circumstances for people to bond, socialize, play, eat and live. The townscape can, in our opinion, be directly compared to what we experience when we eat. When we zoom in, the townscape includes foodscapes that define how, where and what we eat, whom we eat with and the term of the meals. The table is, as the cities, set and meticulously planned to create an atmosphere, that defines exactly the ones hosting while embracing every guest entering.

Our paper introduces townscape in the kitchen scale bringing tablescape into the dimension and scale of daily life. We let design and architecture lead this transformation, as it is the Gesamtkunstwerk of the tablescape that is the focus in the project ‘Set the Table’. A research project with the overall goal to improve the quality of life of elderly people receiving catered food, by developing a new and innovative packaging prototype which will enhance, change and transform the way food is brought, prepared and consumed.
In this paper, we will present some of the findings in our project “Set the Table” and discuss how the scale and most important the scape concept affects the meal in the context of public welfare, in specific increasing life quality for the elderly. How, in our architectural praxis, we can transfer the disciplines between scales, to the design of setting a table and as the townscape creates the atmosphere of the streets, let the tablescape create an atmosphere of the meal, both being Gesamtkunstwerk of the life that is living.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date22 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2019
Duration: 22 Mar 201922 Mar 2019
Conference number: 6


LocationHotel Novotel Athenes
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