Jack opens the breakfast kitchen; a few light touches and everything he needs for a small breakfast is at hand. Tired from the long flight and lack of sleep, he revels in the clean and easy-to-use interface of what Jack and Jenny call the hearth of their home. No techno-geek styling or computer science degree required to operate, simple voice activation controls most functions of this kitchen/office/entertainment center.
Placing the waste from his travels in the automatic trash sorter and compactor, Jack closes up the breakfast kitchen and switches one whole wall of screens to show a sunny beach scene, this one beamed live from Mauritius over the Internet. He slips easily into a well earned sleep.
Jack wakes, checks his e-mail and heads downtown to his office.
Jenny is meeting a potential client for the first time and decides a more formal look to her home is required, so she folds away the breakfast pod and tests different shades of gray on the cabinets until she finds one that she likes.
The dining table will be her desk and the freezer door her presentation screen.
Jack calls home. He has forgotten to switch on the washing machine. "Function — wash 40 degrees" he says to the kitchen interface. "Eco wash started" replies Heather Locklear, the actress he has programmed the kitchen to sound like. For some reason Jenny prefers Brad Pitt.
"Kitchen helper," calls out Jenny, and a computer-generated Brad appears on a cabinet screen. "Coffee at 2 p.m.," Jenny intones, "and the Money Program DVD-R at 2:15."
"OK Jenny," replies Brad with a twinkle in his eye. The client is impressed with the kitchen and asks for a guided tour.
"Night," says Jenny. The kitchen blacks out except for soft, glowing orange lights at the fridge, kettle, recycle bin, and cup store.
"Baby." An image of the spare bedroom shows up on the fridge.
"Romance," says Jenny, and the room glows with warm candlelight while soft melodies of a Mozart symphony fill the air. The cupboards containing the champagne, bucket, and flutes have also been highlighted.
It's party time. For their third anniversary Jack and Jenny have invited their closest friends over for dinner. Jenny and Jack both love to cook. Jack loves to experiment and quiz his friends to see if they can guess what the dishes are and invent wild stories about the origin of each dish. Jack's own tales are often accompanied by MP3 files downloaded from obscure sites he has discovered while surfing.
Every possible work surface has been unfolded and is being used. The kitchen is a whirl of activity. Jenny is working from a recipe she downloaded to DVD-R. The Instructor shows her how to prepare everything correctly and presets the ovens to the correct temperatures at the correct times.
Waste heat from the ovens is collected and used to keep precooked items warm in one of the cabinets. The rest of the cupboards have been converted to chillers by the touch of a button to store the drinks and fruit bought in bulk earlier in the day.
The dinner is prepared, everything is tidied away, and Jack and Jenny await the arrival of their guests.
"Psychadelia — Disco — quiet during dinner, chillout to midnight," says Jack as he sets the music preferences for the evening.
Dinner was a great success; the washing up will be left until the morning.
"Romance," says Jenny.
"Imaginative and fun," say the competition judges, who gave first place to this project. "Despite a lack of technical feasibility being initially apparent," they found the ideas, especially the media "mood" wall, compelling. The competition was sponsored by RIBA and MFI, a leading furniture retailer and manufacturer in the United Kingdom.
Andrew Brown and Patrick Booth are architects with the Leeds, UK office of the ML Design Group Ltd., an award-winning residential design firm.