A Revolutionary Kitchen Design That Furthered Equality For Women
The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City has a fascinating exhibit of 20th Century kitchen designs from 1921 to 1995 happening until March 14, 2011, so if you're interested in design and make a trip to New York, be sure to see it. In going through the complete online guide to the exhibit, which really just touches on some items in the complete collection, what fascinated me most is one of the earliest kitchens in the MOMA show, that of architect Margarete Schutte-Lihotzky's Frankfort Kitchen, designed in 1926-27.
Schutte-Lihotzky herself said that just 10 years before, in 1916, "no one would have conceived of a woman being commissioned to build a house—not even myself.” Her revolutionary design, probably the first kitchen designed by a woman architect to be accepted for a public housing project (10,000 kitchens!), literally brought the kitchen out of the basement. It was efficient, hygienic, incorporated new technologies and, was designed for the natural order of activities. Its dimensions were 8’9” x 12’10” x 6’10".
Each kitchen came complete with a swivel stool, a gas stove, built-in storage, a fold-down ironing board, an adjustable ceiling light, and a removable garbage drawer. Labeled aluminum storage bins provided tidy organization for staples like sugar and rice as well as easy pouring. Careful thought was given to materials for specific functions, such as oak flour containers (to repel mealworms) and beech cutting surfaces (to resist staining and knife marks). (source)
It was a social impact that Schutte-Lihotzky desired and achieved with her Frankfort Kitchen. She met with hundreds of women, asking them what they would like in their kitchens, what would make their work easier, their jobs less time-consuming. Her modern design, thereby, helped overturn the designation of women as domestic workers in their own homes - a step towards greater equality for women.
And it appears, still today, very accommodating to the modern woman or man.