A social enterprise’s first mobile food entity uses design, mechanics, and hospitality to benefit incarcerated youths.
As the food truck craze continues to gain speed, it was only a matter of time before Brooklyn-based Situ Studio—one of the country’s premier design/build outfits—was tasked with creating a kitchen on wheels. But their opportunity to design and fabricate was not for just another rolling burger joint or mobile ice cream stand. The recently completed Snowday is the first food truck from Drive Change, a social enterprise that trains previously incarcerated youths to operate and manage roving restaurants.
Situ Studio and Fabrication’s co-founder and partner Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny said client Jordyn Lexton, Drive Change’s founder, had a strong vision for the program. Her business model calls for locally sourced ingredient themed menus. Snowday’s ingredient is Grade A maple syrup harvested in upstate New York. To relay the image of a cabin in the woods where one might refine the tree sap, she envisioned a raw, natural facade that was both organic and industrial.
Lukyanov-Cherny said designing a skin for a moving unit—in this case a former Con Edison vehicle—was challenging new territory. “When we started thinking of the project, we thought of a three dimensional, articulated facade,” he said. However, instead of complying with building codes the Situ team learned Transit Authority regulations, and how they could customize the appearance while fitting in the required envelope, in addition to practical matters like height restrictions, wear, and repair issues. In other words, an extended cantilever would not be reasonable for zipping through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.
The facade also had to accommodate food service needs. The truck’s interior was gutted and retrofitted with an industrial, stainless steel kitchen by Shanghai Mobile Kitchen Solution, and a service component that extends to the truck’s exterior. So in addition to ease of repairs, the modular facade system had to adapt to both punctuated and continuous surfaces. “We wanted a flexible construction system that let you develop the facade for one application or another, that could be transformed for a building, or more architectural structure,” explained Lukyanov-Cherny.
Situ Studio used Rhino to design a bespoke snowflake pattern for the truck, which supported Lexton’s brand visualization. The team chose reclaimed lumber as a material, both for its down-home aesthetic as well as its lightness. Planks of redwood and cedar with naturally worn patinas achieved variances in color without any additional treatment and a natural seal. Each plank was planed to 1 inch in thickness, so three layers made up a 3-inch additional depth on either side of the truck. To drive home the branding message, the truck’s name was laser cut from 1/4-inch stainless steel and backlit with LEDs. Each board was applied with stainless steel anchor points.
Though it was not Situ Fabricataion’s first project for a non-profit organization, it was their first food truck and Lukyanov-Cherny said he looks forward to building more mobile units in the future. “We like to work with non profits because they’re open to new ideas, design, and approaches, which is so important to those companies,” he told AN. “A visionary client like this is inspiring to us.”