Kitchen comeback

One room, many functions

During the course of the 20th century, the kitchen changed from the one-time social center of the house to a separate cooking laboratory and back again to the center of life at home.

Whilst the kitchens of the 19th century were inseparably attached to the living area – the kitchen was, after all, usually the only heated room in the house – the technical advances at the beginning of the 20th century led to the kitchen and all of its smells and noises being banished further and further into separate rooms.

© Gerald Zugmann /
Frankfurter Kitchen

As far back as the 1920s, manufacturers were trying to accommodate the growing number of working women: they tried to design the kitchen to be as functional as possible to make the working housewife's life a little easier. The most famous kitchen optimization – the so-called Frankfurt Kitchen designed in 1926 by Viennese architect Grete Schütte-Lihotzky – measured around seven square meters and was the prototype of the built-in kitchen.

Having experienced countless modernizations over the course of time, it is still an essential component of any kitchen manufacturer's program. The interpretation of the kitchen as a pure workroom with a minimum surface area and separated from the living area persisted until the 1960s and 1970s. German designer Otl Aicher at the time criticized the fact that housewives always had to face the wall when working. To resolve the problem, he designed a kitchen workbench positioned in the middle of the room – the forerunner of today's popular cooking islands. Most modern buildings have adequate space for an island in the kitchen. More recently, modern kitchen technology with super-efficient extractor hoods has enabled the kitchen to reclaim its connection to the living area and once again become the social meeting point of the house.

Kitchen hideaway: apartment in Berlin Kreuzberg more

Architects such as Berlin-based dAX_I are even taking things a step further. The central design concept of their recently completed apartment conversion in Kreuzberg is an amalgamation of kitchen space and living area. The entire kitchen equipment with the exception of the hob is integrated in a built-in L-shaped unit. Opening six large-format doors – which open easily and disappear into pockets so that the doors do protrude into the room – reveals the concealed kitchen with all its appliances and the sink. When the doors are closed, all the eye can see is an unadorned wooden wall that lends a welcome visual solidity to an otherwise very open and airy room. Only the minimalistic cooking island and dining table suggest the existence of perfectly concealed functionality.

Room zones instead of rigid room structures
The future belongs to solutions like the one in Kreuzberg. According to researchers, the trend towards open, flexible room structures and furnishings that accommodate and support this type of variability is set to continue. Accordingly, we will in future divide our living space into zones that do not dictate a specific usage but rather fulfill different functions at different times.

«Store It!» – Hawa Student Award 2012 Competition more more

Two students from Zurich's Federal Institute of Technology, Michael Fehlmann und Benjamin Minder, demonstrate what that could look like. Their design for an apartment, which they submitted to the Hawa Student Award 2012 Competition, is an exciting contribution on the subject of condensed, low-cost living space. The core of the design is a cabinet-style module at the center of the apartment that contains the equipment and utilities for different functions such as living, working or sleeping as extractable furniture: each function is activated sequentially in accordance with the user's daily routine. Even the extractable kitchen is pushed into the room when needed and then returned to the "cupboard" after use.

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Kitchen hideway

Room zones instead of rigid room structures: integrated kitchen solution by Berlin-based architects dAX_I.

Kitchen hideway

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