It's never a perfect analogy, but it can be interesting when it comes close enough: Attempting to translate one creative discipline into another is, to mutilate the metaphors, more difficult than turning water into wine—rather, the old saying regarding "dancing about architecture" comes to mind. For Milan Design Week 2014, the Centrum Designu Gdynia ambitiously sought to distill a dozen products by Polish Pomeranian designers into culinary delights. Although the concept itself was executed to varying degrees of success, "Taste of an Object" offered a nice twist on the tried-and-true local design showcase.
Taking inspiration from Richard E. Cytowic's The Man Who Tasted Shapes (MIT Press 2003), the Gdynia Design Centre worked with razy2 design group to develop an exhibition in which "an object goes beyond the limits of how it's typically perceived."
"Flavors have shape," he started, frowning into the depths of the roasting pan. "I wanted the taste of this chicken to be pointed shape, but it came out all round." He looked up at me, still blushing. "Well I mean it's nearly spherical," he emphasized, trying to keep the volume down. "I can't serve this if it doesn't have points."
..."When I taste something with intense flavor, the feeling sweeps down to my arm into my fingertips. I feel it—its weight, its texture, whether it's warm or cold, everything. I feel it like I'm actually grasping something." He held his palms up. "Of course, there's nothing really there," he said, staring at his hands. "But it's not illusion because I feel it."
So goes the excerpt of Cytowic's book, a seed of source material that is planted in the geopolitical context of the Pomerania region of northern Poland, across the Baltic Sea from Sweden. Described as "a region of a turbulent history linked with and age-long fight for independence," Pomerania is also an incubator, "a base for brave yet developing, unique projects."
Mouthwatering though they may be, chef Rafal Walesa's gastronomic concoctions are only obliquely related to the products—but that's precisely the point. After all, one can only imagine that literal interpretations of, say, a radiator (there are actually three heating-related products in the show) or an urn might not be nearly as appetizing as the photogenic treats that were on view. (Note: The captioned images below alternate between food and product, with the dishes followed by the design that inspired them.)
Chocolate sponge cake is perhaps the ultimate comfort food
"Welna & Powietrze" armchair by Malafor (Agata Kulik-Pomorska & Pawel Pomorski)
Hard candy is intended to symbolize cast aluminum, while its lemon tea flavor conjures the contrast of heat on a cold winter day
Red wine jelly offers a twist on a drink for a solemn occasion
"Tear Drop" by Aeon Form (Aleksander Bielawski, Robert Kowalczyk & Dominik Sedzicki)
Fried parsley looks like wood and alludes to early childhood; in Polish folk medicine, parsley is thought to stimulate lactation
"Bawa" children's table by Klaudia Kuhn
A chocolate-related product gets a free pass
"Chocolate Fixation" by Katarzyna Pietowska
Meringue somehow evokes the smooth chair while lavender is used as a sedative
"Diago" chair by Tabanda (Malgorzata Malinowska, Filip Ludka & Tomasz Kempa)
A sportsdrink is paired with an unusual carbohydrate supplement: honey and caviar
"Echo Doppio" by Creme Cycles
Cinnamon marshmallows suggest warmth and insulation
"Iglo" tree liner by Witamina D (Malgorzata Knobloch & Igor Wiktorowicz)
An educational building toy is like a healthy snack
"Kierec" by Studio 1:1
An ultrathin coffee-flavored brandy snap
The chili flavor evokes the purpose of the heat recovery unit (the sponge texture, for better or for worse, is an analogue for expanded polypropylene)
"OXEN" ductless ventilation / heat recovery unit by FLOWAIR
The form of the ginger sticks resembles that of the heating coils while its flavor also offers warmth
The courtyard area was populated with "1/2 Stools" by Witamina D (Malgorzata Knobloch & Igor Wiktorowicz)