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How about a bit of DIY design? The Instructables Restaurant at this year's PICNIC encouraged visitors to make and improve upon all kinds of products. We talked to co-founder Arne Hendriks.

By Cassandra Pizzey /asdf 30-09-2010

At first glance the bright orange Instructables Restaurant at the recent PICNIC festival in Amsterdam - which celebrates new solutions in the spirit of co-creation - looks a little out of place.

A pizza oven is the main focal point of the stand, and two chefs are prepping ingredients at the counter. Brightly coloured rolls of tape lie on a heap of empty beer crates and a stack of IKEA lamps are piled up in the corner. “The step-by-step guide will show you what to do,” says Arne Hendriks, one half of the creative brain behind the initiative.  Instructables Restaurant is an analogue execution of the website initiated by Arne Hendriks, formerly of Platform 21, and Bas van Abel who is Creative Director of the Waag Society. is a website where people can upload and comment on anything from recipes to knitting patterns. ”We discovered this and many other open-source websites,” says Hendriks, ”and decided to do something with the string of information, turn it into something tangible.” Everything in the restaurant comes with a step-by-step guide from 'how to make a pizza' to 'how to make a Lego table out of PVC pipe.’ ”When people get to make products themselves with the aid of a recipe, it forces them to think about what they're doing and how to improve upon it,” explains Hendriks.

He continues: ”We need to facilitate thinking, get people wanting to make stuff better.” The artist and inventor noticed a decline in enthusiasm for good design over the past years, and aimed to stimulate creativity on a personal level through the restaurant. ”If we can teach people how a pair of shoes is made, maybe they'll think twice about buying a cheap, badly made pair the next time they go shopping.” This knowledge of materials and techniques should then ultimately help lead to a more sustainable way of thinking.

There was a lot of interest in the Instructables Restaurant at PICNIC, with people lining up to taste some of the freshly baked pizza and figuring out how to get the drawing robots to work. Most of the creations were a little big to carry around all day but everywhere lay the ‘how to’ flyers which visitors could take home. The computer on the counter allowed participants to immediately upload their comments to, or download some new recipes.
With Instructables Restaurants being set up all over the world — yes, it too comes with a step-by-step guide — in places like London, Kuala Lumpur and Russia, the initiative seems to be sewing seeds. ”We've even been asked to come and teach university students about Instructables,” Hendriks says excitedly. “This could stimulate a whole new way of grading students, where not only teachers, but the whole world can comment on the work.”

Photos, Ferdy Damman and Mark Florquin

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