November 26, 2023 → Cucina Rovina – The Kitchen in Ruins: Software-ing Spaces Winter School, Bergamo, IT 2023

Software-ing Spaces Winter School 2023 is an unique spatial experiment inside Bergamo’s former prison and monastery Sant’Agata (ExSA), through which students and young professionals from diverse backgrounds are invited to collectively experience what it means to take care of an urban common in an act of cohabitation and collective auto-construction.

The Winter School is an invitation to envision design objects – a sort of software inside of the spatial hardware – for collective use: encounters, performances, while things are cooking, working, and exchanging. In short: multifunctional objects for all kinds of communal care. The objects – among them kitchen modules, working/meeting furniture, textile installations, and poufs – will not only be immediately used in ExSA community, but become a manifesto for a way of reappropriating our urban commons in a dynamic way of design.

The ExSA building has historically accommodated diverse communities with one shared characteristic: a centralised nutrition system that varied in complexity. This fundamental task of sustenance was once undertaken by monks, prisoners and their wards, and most recently by the groups temporarily occupying the building. At the same time, and at least since the Nineteenth Century, women movements have been thinking this place of the “feminine” as a starting point to negotiate their emancipation, not least through experimental architectural typologies like the kitchenless apartment.

What distinguishes a community kitchen from a family one, and what implications does cooking for diverse communities have, on both societal and geopolitical issues? How do kitchens accomodate the needs and demands of hungry communities? The aim of Studio Cucina was to search for answers through designing, conversations, and recipes, gently borrowed from, among others, Hildegard von Bingen, the prison cook Sebastian Glück and Kitchen Politics Publishing Collective & Nikita Bunyn’s mum.

Together with Sara Consoli, Enno Gloyna, Sophie Bäumlin, Paolo Falilla, Lara Monacelli Bani, Myriam Lemberger, Chloé Ganne we assembled functional sculptures out of the found objects accumulated over the years within the spaces and storages of ExSA: a petrol barrel, a wine jar, old kindergarten cupboards, a green net, scrap wood and rusty metal frames… Around the objects, installed in the old chapel, we designed the symbolic final dinner of ExSA’s community era, thinking of forms of eating capable of responding to the Winter School newly formed community. We observed its eating habits, its hygiene, its approximating ending, the temperature of its rooms and the need to keep warm inspired us to prepare piadinas, mulled apple juice and chestnuts and serve them around the – real or fake – bonfire.

As the ExSA community is leaving the building to make space for a municipally driven social housing programme, the objects will serve independent cultural spaces in the city of Bergamo.

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Studio Cucina

tutored by Licia Soldavini & Mascha Fehse

Within the Winter School Softwar-ing Spaces based on the work developed since 2015 by Associazione Maite, an association that promotes socio-cultural initiatives inside the Sant’Agata former monastry and prison (ExSA). In the last years Sant’Agata has been collectively managed by different groups and individuals coordinated by Maite and So.No. – Società Nomade. Francesca Gotti (architect, researcher at Politecnico di Milano, and member of Maite and So.No.) and Yona Catrina Schreyer (architect, researcher at Politecnico di Milano, and member of So.No.) were the organizers and coordinators of the Winter School.

Workshop participants: Sara Consoli, Enno Gloyna, Sophie Bäumlin, Paolo Falilla, Lara Monacelli Bani, Myriam Lemberger, Chloé Ganne