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
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".
Reconstruction of the Frankfurt Kitchen from the Höhenblick Housing Estate: image via MOMA.org Archival photo of the Frankfort Kitchen: image via MOMA.org Ginnheim-Höhenblick housing estate, Frankfurt,1930. "The Frankfor Kitchen was salvaged in 1993 from the second floor of the corner house in this photograph..." (MOMA): image via MOMA.org
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)
Architectural drawing of Frankfort Kitchen, Margarite Schütte-Lihotzky, 1927: image via MOMA.org
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.