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The Eisenhower Interstate System, a collection of nearly 50,000 miles of infrastructural roadwork, forever changed the surface of the land we call home. The ability to transport goods and people within a networked system is unprecedented, allowing relatively free movement and incredible flexibility. In the words of President Eisenhower, the interstate system creates a “ceaseless flow of information throughout the Republic” uniting communities and markets for the betterment of this country. Interstate 80, the second longest route in the interstate system stretching nearly 2,900 miles from coast to coast, serves as an ideal backdrop to a dinner event discussing the topics of food and transportation.

While it can be argued that this system created multiple beneficial conditions for economy and transportation, the context in which we live is vastly different from the time in which it was built. Small towns bypassed, neighborhoods divided, and increased noise and air pollution are among the list of side effects from carving an arterial route of high-speed traffic through a collection of existing urban fabrics. Increases in the costs of transportation, numbers of vehicles, and resultant air pollution have begged us to re-conceive the ways in which we might make a new future which may not be as dependent on fossil-fueled, individualized transportation systems.

Bifurcation, a device of separation and a tool of transportation system design, was appropriated to create a means for grafting a connection and conversation regarding these paramount issues. For the design of this elevATE dinner station, ATom created a multi-layered condition that simultaneously facilitated the preparation and serving of a meal and the interaction of its participants. Using interstate construction vernacular, we designed a prep and serving table containing custom-fabricated food vessels within it that presented a separable surface as well as a separation of space. It is over this surface and in this space where the combination of culinary deconstruction and reconstruction occurred.

When fully assembled at the beginning of the course, the table and food was read not as a series of individual servings, but rather a continuous “food condition” existing within a bifurcated space. This is where the interaction of the diners happened, encouraging them to pick up a take-away plate while at the same time deconstructing the table surface. Once the course commenced, the original serving surface broke down as a series of parts in the hands of the guests who begin to reconstruct the experience through conversations at various gathering points in the space as laid out in an abstracted map of the Omaha metro area. At the same time, Chef Bobby Mekiney, executive chef of M’s Pub and Vivace, reconstructed the table surface and assembled the portions for the next course right before their eyes – a performance that left them talking.

The meal itself was a celebration of the multiple overlaps between the culinary and design arts and maintains the deconstructed theme of this elevATE station from start to finish. Chef Bobby created an experience that heightened certain tastes and textures through food combinations in a 35 step process deconstructing gazpacho while using the best parts of summer’s bounty – from plant to flower to vegetable. “It will be unrecognizable…but will be exactly what one would expect” of this all-vegetable soup, said Bobby. Unfamiliar to the eye, familiar to the tongue.

Recipient of Best of Category national design award from the Interior Design Educators Council (IDEC) 2014