opinion: Looking back over the past few years, the pandemic has made us question many things about the way we live. The shift to working from home is likely to continue even after COVID-19 subsides, increasing the need for more flexible and adaptable spaces, and recognizing cultural changes such as doubling down on kitchens. , will redefine the way we live. home office.
As part of my PhD in Creative Practice, I am investigating the history of the domestic spaces of a group of women who lived and commissioned modernist houses in Titirangi, west Auckland. This research and the pandemic prompted me to think about the recent history of the kitchen. It got me thinking about how the kitchen reflects and makes visible the interconnected nature of domesticity, gender, femininity, and masculinity both domestically and internationally.
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The kitchen has long been a place where gendered roles and responsibilities are experienced and sometimes contested. It is not only a space that has come to be associated with daily, ritualistic, domestic practices, and often highly gendered activities, but also has greatly increased equality between men and women. It is also a place where there is a gradual transition towards “democratization” within the family.
The 1950s celebrated modernism as an architectural style that encouraged more open design and increased fluidity between kitchen, dining, and leisure spaces.
To put the kitchen in the context of architecture and design, we can look back to the 1920s Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany. Bauhaus began to explore the boundaries between private and public interior spaces and how they interpenetrate each other. This was a time of global industrial production and efficiency, with an emphasis on increasing the mobility of people, including helping women move more easily around the kitchen and This included streamlining the
Early Bauhaus kitchen designs sought to incorporate the idea of smooth, continuous countertops as a standard in modern kitchens, as a response to designs that expressed a more mobile era in both form and function. .
In America in the 1940s, the concept of the triangle or golden triangle began to take hold in kitchens, and the concept can still be seen in today’s modern kitchens. This triangle is based on his study of the 1940s industrial movement aimed at improving efficiency. Frederick Taylor, an American mechanical engineer, later became an influential consultant on improving industrial efficiency, and the principles he applied to factories began to be applied to kitchens.
The three important items in the kitchen: the sink, refrigerator, and stove were spaced evenly apart, allowing cooks (back then, most women in the kitchen) to prepare, cook, and clean up their meals. , could be easily moved from place to place. .
The 1950s celebrated modernism as an architectural style that encouraged more open design and increased fluidity between kitchen, dining, and leisure spaces. This was the beginning of the beautification of the kitchen interior, with cabinets painted in “ice cream-flavored” pastel shades and Formica countertops and tables.
However, opening the kitchen to the rest of the house increases the burden of housework and women, increasing the pressure to achieve and maintain certain standards such as dress, efficiency, and calm and composure in the heat of the kitchen. I did. (Perhaps this was also the time when an increasing number of women were being prescribed Valium in the United States and New Zealand.)
Modern food production has introduced frozen foods, concentrated soups, and canned and packaged foods, making it easier for women to prepare dinner in some aspects of the household. The Betty Crocker Cake required adding fresh eggs to a package of cake mix to make a cake that looked (and probably tasted) just like the real thing, as if it had been made from scratch. .
In the summer of 1959, Vice President Richard Nixon traveled to Moscow to officially open the American National Exhibition under the Buckminster Fuller Geodesic Dome in Moscow’s Sokolniki Park. Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev accompanied President Nixon on a tour of the exhibit with a team of journalists and photographers. Entire houses were built for this exhibition, and American exhibitors claimed that anyone in the United States could buy them. This is a provocative politicization of the kitchen, which is displayed full of labor-saving and entertainment gadgets such as refrigerators, kettles, and InSinkErator waste disposal machines to represent the fruits of the capitalist American consumer market. Ta.
Over the next few years, a second wave of feminism took hold from the United States, changing what was considered a woman’s “responsibility” and making the concept of female consumers and their purchasing power more powerful.
We need to feel a connection to the materials used, honest materials such as wood, ceramic and glass, materials that can be used for a long time, can be recycled and are less likely to end up in landfill.
Until the 1950s, the kitchen was considered a utilitarian space, but changing social norms and feminism brought the kitchen out of the shadows and began to acquire aesthetic importance on a par with other interior decorations.
Then along came television and televised cooking shows that brought the kitchen into the living room as a form of theater that could be watched from the comfort of your couch. We had Julia Childs of our generation, and New Zealand had the galloping gourmands of the early 1970s, Hudson and Halls and Graham Kerr.
The competitive approach of many programs over the past few decades has presented food preparation as a “sport,” with chefs treated as competitors or coaches, rather than cooks like MasterChef. Seen from this point of view, the kitchen is no longer a women’s “domestic”, feminized, domestic space, but rather a place for cooking, using specialized knives, utensils, and utensils that serve as utensils to support performance. This will be the stadium where the contest will be held.
Long before the pandemic led many families to use their kitchens as offices, there was a movement in New Zealand to design kitchens for multiple users and purposes. We now live in a society where nuclear families are no longer the norm, and where blended families, single-parent families, and same-sex marriages replace traditional family relationships. Maori and Pasifika communities, as well as Asian and Indian communities, all have specific traditions and practice the concept of zones when using a kitchen for multiple users across generations.
Homes store memories and traditions of daily life, where our days begin and end. In the past, the kitchen was located at the back of the house, out of public view, and gendered labor was hidden. The kitchen has long been a symbol of domesticity from which women were often marginalized, but with changing gender roles, my view is that the kitchen has become a place for collective activity, a place for connection and conversation, a place for memories of daily life. The place to record has changed. .
Kitchens will continue to evolve, and their shape and purpose may change. For example, what does a truly sustainable kitchen look like? At least furniture that lasts for decades, with authenticity and beauty, rather than furniture that needs to be “re-done” every 10 years. Furniture will be provided. We need to feel a connection to the materials used, honest materials such as wood, ceramic and glass, materials that can be used for a long time, can be recycled and are less likely to end up in landfill.
It also involves thinking about the integrity of our food and where it comes from, as well as reducing what ends up in the trash. But no matter what form it takes, the kitchen is likely to be the heart of your home, and it’s a space that should never be taken for granted and should be considered.
This was part of a talk Gina Hochstein gave in April 2023 as co-chair of Blum’s New Zealand, Architecture + Women, on the evolution of the kitchen over the past 100 years.