The exhibition Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen at the Museum of Modern Art explores the 20th century transformation of the kitchen as a pivotal point of modern thinking in family life. After WW1, kitchens long ignored by design professionals began to attract attention from domestic reformers and progressive architects. They wanted to transform the kitchen from drab, inefficient and unsanitary to something newer and family friendly. Previously the kitchen was relegated to the basement or an annex; it’s new popularity called for the reorganization of house design and a new definition of women and their place in family life.
Architects began to use prefabricated construction with the goal of optimizing efficiency. The result was compact, practical spaces central to the functioning of a modern home. Between the wars, the new kitchen was shaped by new materials and technologies. Aluminum, heat resistant glass and the increased availability of electricity and gas gave way to new efficiencies.
From Moscow to Brussels and Berlin, kitchens were at the core of radical projects to modernize housing, particularly public-housing built around the city of Frankfurt. This exhibit is really fascinating. The text that accompanies the displays is very illuminating and the art ranges from paintings to photographs by Irving Penn and Edward Weston (who knew eggs made such great art) to posters, objects and gadgets that add a unique dimension.
The exhibits makes a compelling argument that the kitchen is a place of mess, mishap, socialization and sensuality. It is a place that evokes a gamut of emotions fostering creativity and genuine pleasure as well as anxiety. The kitchens we love today – big, bright spaces, stone counter tops, beautiful backsplashes, countless stainless appliances and incredible functionality – have evolved organically from the 20’s.
Based on the fact that the kitchen is the 21st century’s heart of the house and family, this exhibit is timely. Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen, is on view until March 14th 2011.
I have taken the pictures that accompany this post, but I am not a photographer so I apologize for their quality. If you are in New York before March 14th, take an hour to be entertained by this informative exhibition.
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