Design duo Lanzavecchia + Wai has incorporated a lens into an outdoor furniture set to concentrate sunlight onto a grilling plate for cooking food.
Italian designer Francesca Lanzavecchia and Hunn Wai from Singapore intend the SUNPlace set to function as a cross between a barbecue and teppanyaki – a type of flat grill used in Japanese cuisine.
On a sunny day, a glass lens mounted above a table concentrates the natural light onto a cast-iron grill embedded in the surface.
"We were inspired by the convivial cooking experiences of fondues, Chinese hot pots and Korean barbecues," Wai told Dezeen. "The positive energies generated by group cooking is something we wanted to have for this project."
The project was created for an exhibition titled Le Affinità Selettive, curated by Aldo Colonetti to coincide with this year's Milan Expo event, which is themed around sustainable food production.
SUNPlace consists of a circular solid-oak tabletop mounted on a round base made from powder-coated steel, which tapers towards the top.
The removable grill plate nestles into the surface, positioned beneath the lens that is supported by a metal stem.
The designers chose to use a Fresnel lens, which is made up of a flat sheet of concentric rings that focus the light in a specific direction – in this case onto the grill.
Originally developed for lighthouses by French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel to project light as far as possible from the source, this type of lens allows for a much thinner section and lighter weight compared to a conventional lens.
The table is accompanied by stools made with the same materials and shapes using water-jet cutting and traditional carpentry.
Lanzavecchia + Wai also created a set of cast-iron cooking tools with flat ends, including a square, triangular and shovel-shaped, along with a pair of tongues.
After heating up these tools by placing them under the lens, they can be used to cook the top side of the meat or vegetables while the plate below grills the food from the bottom up.
The grill and implements reach high temperatures, so the designers created a pair of heavy-duty gloves for safe handling.
"The possibility of cooking with the sun is rather thrilling and exciting," said Wai. "Factor in intense heat and glare, and control of the cooking process requiring skill and technique; it will require everyone's full attention."
Lanzavecchia + Wai hope the range will encourage sociable cooking practices. "The positive energies generated by group cooking is something we wanted to have for this project," Wai said.
The prototype is not yet fully functional, but the duo hopes that the idea will encourage others to consider harnessing the sun as a viable cooking method.
"We were looking for future scenarios zero emission cooking and found out solar cooking is field largely neglected by design and most of the time in the hand of the DIY-hobbyist community," said Wai.
"With this object we wanted to give a new function, new aesthetic language and perceived values to make solar cooking attractive to anyone by becoming a shared act."
The Le Affinità Selettive exhibition was located at Milan's Triennale design museum from 9 to 12 July. It reopens at the Museum of Contemporary Art in the town of Lissone, north of Milan, on 18 July and continues until 1 October 2015.
A food machine that allows chefs to work together remotely on recipes and a dining table with gas burners in the centre are among other examples of products geared towards collaborative cooking.