Dezeen Magazine

Individual greenhouses let guests dine at a distance during pandemic

Amsterdam arts centre Mediamatic has set up a socially-distanced dining experience where guests sit in their own greenhouse and hosts wear face shields.

Pentagonal glasshouses by the side of the canal each shelter a pair of diners, who have to be from the same household, sitting across from each other over a table covered in white cloth.

The project's name, Serres Séparées, is a play on the French phrase chambre séparée for private dining areas. The dining pods are at once separate and intimate, and visible and public.

A four course plant-based menu arrives courtesy of waiters wearing personal protective equipment in the form of face shields.

Dishes are served on the ends of long wooden planks that allow servers to deliver food to the table without entering the individual greenhouses.

Mediamatic was founded in Amsterdam in 1983, and organises talks, events and projects on nature, science, biotech and art from its canalside location.

The arts centre already has a large greenhouse for its aquaponics setup, and had a set of smaller glasshouses on hand.

"The greenhouses are built by a Dutch ecological greenhouse company called Tuinkassenwinkel," Tobias Servaas from Mediamatic told Dezeen.

"We purchased them already long before the outbreak and they have been used in many Mediamatic projects before."

The art centre was trying to think of ways to keep its restaurant open during the pandemic and alighted on the greenhouses. "Our director Willem Velthoven and the chefs Giulia Soldati and Tommaso Buresti should be given all credit," added Servaas.

So far the organisation has run three trial events for friends and family, and is taking bookings from the public.

Mediamatic hopes that the model could lead the way for other restaurants and cafes looking for safer ways to run their businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We see around us how some other restaurants are making their own versions of our concept – which we are very happy about," said Servaas.

"As Mediamatic, we like to experiment with new ideas and hand them over to others as soon as they become more widely known," he added.

"I think we prove with this dining concept that you can still experience intimacy in a special setting within what our government calls an 'anderhalvemetersamenleving' – 'a six-feet society'."

The Dutch government has adopted a "targeted" lockdown approach, with residents asked but not forced to stay home and only businesses that require touching – such as beauty salons and brothels – asked to close.

Most people in contact-based roles were able to resume their work from 11 May.

Restaurants and cafes are open for takeaways, and people can go outside if they maintain 1.5 metres between each other.

Coronavirus transmission rates increase in enclosed spaces where people spend a lot of time in close proximity, which makes normal restaurant setups too risky for the time being.

The hospitality industry and designers are looking for ways to adapt spaces and practices. One recently published trend report predicted that "slightly surreal" and highly original conceptual dining experiences – just like Mediamatic's Serres Séparées – would become popular in the short term.

Photography is by Anne Lakeman.