“The New Dwelling sets for its occupants the task of rethinking everything afresh, organizing a new lifestyle, and of winning freedom from the irrelevant clutter of outmoded habits of thought and old-fashioned equipment.” – Franz Schuster, Das neue Frankfurt, 1927.
One of the inspirations for starting Domaphile was my recent visit to the newly opened exhibition at MOMA entitled Counter Space: Design + the Modern Kitchen. While this blog is not dedicated solely to cooking or food, I can’t think of a better place to begin a conversation about things domestic than by considering the kitchen. Or at least the Frankfurt Kitchen.
The first of the three themes explored in the exhibit is the idea of the “New Kitchen” as an experimental laboratory of household efficiency and social change. The highlight of this section is the Museum’s recent acquisition of one of the last remaining examples of the Frankfurt Kitchen, designed in 1926 by Austrian Architect Margarete (Grete) Schuette-Lihotzky for the post-WW1 social housing projects in Frankfurt, Germany. Her aim was to create a kitchen in a small space, but with the utmost in organization to ease the burden of domestic labor. Her ideas were shaped by the writing of Christine Frederick in her 1915 book, “Efficient Housekeeping or Household Engineering, Scientific Management in the Home”, by her interviews with women and by scientific time-motion studies to ascertain how women moved around while performing specific domestic tasks. At the heart of all of this was a commitment to the utopian idea that changing the home could effect change on a larger political level. Schuette-Lihotzky was pretty kick-ass, not only was she the first woman architect in Austria, but she also spent 4 years in prison for resisting the Nazis.
While there is much to contemplate here as to the history of domestic architecture, feminism, and the evolution of domestic labor, what struck me first upon actually seeing this iconic kitchen I had read so much about was how much I would prefer the Frankfurt Kitchen, built for working class families in 1920’s Germany to my own Manhattan galley kitchen circa 2010. Some of the cool features included were aluminum storage drawers that pulled out to reveal pouring spouts, a garbage drawer for scraps near the cutting area, oak wood flour containers known to repel mealworms, and a stool on casters. The cabinets were reportedly painted blue because research has shown that the color blue repels flies. I am amazed that IKEA hasn’t yet designed a version for today’s market. Seems inevitable.
If you are in the area, I highly recommend a visit to MOMA to see this small, but dense exhibition. The show’s online component is also amazing and includes a blog and a wonderful bibliography. Stop by either and let me know how the show relates to your own kitchen.
The Frankfurt Kitchen in song: