The Kitchen and its Future



source: The Frankfurt Kitchen on display at the M.O.M.A, New York by J. Savoie; 2010.

The kitchen has always been the first place inside the home to reflect social change and technical innovation. The original ‘kitchen’ comprised of an open fire around which all home-life revolved. From the middle ages on, due to the hot, damp and dark conditions it created, the kitchen was treated as an annex, consigned to the back of the house, away from the main living spaces. It was only in the early 1900’s, with the provision of running water, electricity and plumbing, that the kitchen was given back its status. The kitchen became a comfortable and enjoyable place to be. From that point on a whole array of new appliances have continued to transform the kitchen into what we see today.

One of the biggest changes to kitchen design was introduced by the Frankfurt Kitchen. The Frankfurt Kitchen, created by Margarete Schütte-Lihotsky, was based on Frederick Taylor’s concepts of ‘scientific management’ and was the first standardized fitted kitchen. Schütte-Lithosky’s proposal emerged out of a need for a solution to Frankfurt’s space shortage after WWI. It was installed in over 100,000 apartments in newly built social housing developments throughout the 1920’s. Although initially criticized, its design revolutionised the way the kitchen area functioned. Using principles like workflow optimization, efficiency and hygiene, Schütte-Lihotsky’s kitchen followed the principles of modernism. Improving the efficiency of the kitchen and consequently reduced the time and effort needed to be spent at work in it.

Today we are encouraged to find solutions to minimize the impact we have on the environment. New and innovative ways of saving energy and resources and even better use of the space available, are all elements that need to be considered. Ikea has been involved in a series of studies and panel discussions about the future of the kitchen. In 2010 the company commissioned The Future Laboratory to ‘investigate the key factors in the adaptation of kitchen space and its usage’ (The Future of Kitchens, 2010) and to try to identify the 2040 kitchen. In 2013 it collaborated with IDEO in their quest to imagine realistic scenarios of how people will be living in 2025.

So what will the kitchen of the future look like? How will it function? Along with Ikea, there are several other designers who proposed their concept kitchen for the future. The next post in this series will explore the common thread running through these concepts.