London-based practice Studio Micat helped some very lucky campers learn how to make their own bread while at summer camp this year. But this wasn’t your everyday pat it and prick it situation — the designers helped the children design and build a human-powered bakery. The innovative Brawn & Bread contraption uses a stationary bicycle to process grain, knead dough and fuel a wood-fired oven. The “bread gym” can provide enough bread for up to 150 campers and staff members every day.
While most summer campers may have been jumping in lakes and horseback riding, 80 campers aged between 11 and 17 at the Beam Camp in Stratford, New Hampshire were busy learning a thing or two about construction and baking. Working in collaboration with the kids, Studio Micat designers Michael Garnett and Cathrin Walczyk were on hand to guide the project — a bread-making contraption powered by a stationary bicycle. According to the designers, the inspiration for the design came from wanting to connect children with the food they consume, especially something as ubiquitous and simple as bread.
“The bread gym is a small but salutary reminder of the effort required to produce this daily essential, and will hopefully inspire a more respectful attitude towards the humble loaf,” said Studio Micat in a project description. “It relinks effort and reward, requiring a whole body workout of its users and in so doing provides the sustenance to refuel afterwards.”
The innovative project includes a large, elongated machine. At one end of the structure, a large cable winch is used to haul grain sacks up to the top, where they are emptied into two hoppers. The grain is then sent into a mill, where it is ground into flour once the rider on the stationary bicycle below starts pedaling. The ground flour is then collected into glass jars to be used as sourdough starter. When ready, the dough can be cooked in the wood-burning oven at the other end of the contraption. The oven is surrounded by dark timber planks that were charred black by the children using the Japanese technique of shou sugi ban.
In addition to working on the design concept and preparing the materials, the campers also learned a lot about construction, such as how to cast concrete, weld metal and use power tools. The campers even laid the brickwork to form the central island where the dough is worked before going into the oven.
Photography by Studio Micat