"A lot of what we do is about testing public
space"– Suzanne O'Connell of The Decorators

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Suzanne O'Connell of Hackney studio The Decorators introduces a temporary restaurant in a local market and a community event on top of a multi-storey car park in this movie filmed by Dezeen at our Designed in Hackney Day.

The Decorators

Above: Ridley's Temporary Restaurant

O'Connell looked back at The Decorators' work over the past year as part of the day's Pecha Kucha talks, a presentation format where 20 slides are shown for 20 seconds each.

The Decorators

Above: the site of the temporary restaurant

"A lot of what we’ve done over the past year, because we’re a new practice, is about rehearsals and testing public space," says O'Connell as she introduces a temporary restaurant in east London's Ridley Road market. "It's not just about designing the space, but about designing the programme for that space."

The Decorators

Above: constructing the restaurant

Collaborating with London studio Atelier ChanChan, The Decorators set up a restaurant that encouraged visitors and locals to exchange raw ingredients for a cooked meal.

The Decorators

Above: section showing the restaurant's moving table attached to a pulley

"We didn’t really have a brief, so we spent two or three months doing research on the market, speaking to the traders, our core collaborators, and trying to figure out what existed there," says O'Connell.

The Decorators

"We wanted to find a mechanism where we could bring people together and bring an alternative economy to the market."

The Decorators

The Decorators came up with a system where diners could look over the shopping list on the restaurant's blackboard, purchase an ingredient from the market and swap it for their lunch, with enough left over for the restaurant to serve an evening meal.

The Decorators

"With the design, we wanted to highlight the process of what was happening," says O'Connell, explaining that the studio came up with a table that could be winched up from the ground floor kitchen to the first floor dining room.

The Decorators

"We were playing with the normal etiquette of how you share a meal," she says, "and we also played with the way the knives and forks were placed, and glasses, so it was a way of having a shared collective experience."

The Decorators

Above: the first floor of the restaurant with the table seen on the floor below

The second project O'Connell introduces is a collaboration with Croydon Council and Kinnear Landscape Architects to make use of Croydon's empty car parks before they're eventually demolished.

The Decorators

Above: kitchen staff prepare plates on the ground floor

"On first investigation of Croydon, all the places seem quite empty," she explains, "but on further investigation you see there’s actually a buzz of activity – you’ve got Croydon College, you’ve got Fairfield Halls, you’ve got the skaters; so the car park becomes a great opportunity to bring all these people into the public space together."

The Decorators

Above: the table is winched up to the first floor dining room

The Decorators planned an event for the roof of the multi-storey car park to include a cook-out by a local barbecue chef, five-minute speeches from locals outlining their visions for the town, and a football game. "All of the teams are from various stakeholders and they’re playing for this future idea of what Croydon can be," explains O'Connell.

The Decorators

Above: Croydon, south London

"This is an experiment, we don’t really know how it’s going to go, but we hope that the results from this event will inform the architectural interventions over the next year," she concludes. The car park event took place in October last year.

The Decorators

Above: diagram for an open event on top of a multi-storey car park

Dezeen's Designed in Hackney initiative was launched to highlight the best architecture and design made in the borough, which was one of the five host boroughs for the London 2012 Olympic Games as well as being home to Dezeen’s offices.

The Decorators

Above: plan for a social space in Croydon

Watch more movies from our Designed in Hackney Day or see more stories about design and architecture from Hackney.