Kitchens of the future are a fascinating topic, mostly because it's fun to see what kinds of smart or wacky predictions designers dream up. In-sink dishwashers? Great idea. Virtual assistants that help you cook meals? Whew, that would be helpful.
And how about a high-tech table that has hidden heating and cooling elements that allows you to cook, keep food warm and drinks chilled, while guests can dine? Why not. Swedish-German studio Kram/Weisshaar came up with Smartslab, a composite design that features an innovative material for the surface called SapienStone – a state-of-the-art, architectural-scale ceramic tile that's only 6 millimetres thick.
The table has hidden induction heating rings that allow for cooking on one part of the table, while heating elements in other parts keep food warm after it's been served. On the other hand, drinks are kept cold with thermoelectric cooling provided by concealed Peltier elements. It's simple and safe, says designer Clemens Weisshaar:
It's really simple and it keeps the food hot. You need 42.5 degrees Celsius, not more not less. You can put your hand on it and it won't burn you. With the cooling you need minus five degrees Celsius to keep a glass of water or a bottle of sparkling wine cool. It's quite simple.
Best of all, because it's a single-surface kitchen, with all the controls embedded underneath the top, it's much easier to clear and clean and wipe down.
But there are wider implications beyond cooking. As Dezeen notes, there's a lot of mind-boggling potential here to break down the conventional separation between materials and electrics. If the practice of treating these tiles like a circuit boards (by integrating electrics like heating and cooling elements, wireless charging stations, WiFi connectivity points, and touch controls) becomes widespread, it could reduce building costs because these materials can be prefabricated before being installed on-site, says Weisshaar:
When [Iris Ceramica Group, makers of SapienStone] approached us to think about what could be done with a tile, it was very obvious that we could put a lot of the architectural features that are still done by craftsmen in the tile. Somebody drills a hole for every plug and every light switch, which costs a lot of money.
Of course, while it's a totally cool design, the whole life cycle of the table has to be considered. Is its overall manufacturing carbon footprint less than that of a conventional kitchen? How might it be recycled? So while there may be movements to go back to yesterday's tried-and-true kitchen designs, there's also a possibility that layers of new technology may allow them to become reduced to one single unit that does almost everything, except the kitchen sink. More over at Dezeen, Kram/Weisshaar and Iris Ceramica Group.