"Counter Space" exhibit: Seeking utopia in the kitchen

Fri Jan 7, 2011 1:12pm EST
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By Ellen Freilich

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - It's considered the heartbeat of the home and an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art provides a fresh perspective on kitchens and the emotional and ideological hold they have on cooks and non-cooks alike.

"Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen," which has been extended to May 2, reels visitors in with objects from everyday life and reveals the economic, social and even political impact of kitchens.

"They have a tremendous symbolic value for us," Juliet Kinchin, the curator of the exhibit, said in an interview.

"We're constantly bombarded by images of kitchens in films, magazines, novels and television programs. They are where we form and maintain so many relationships within our families and with close friends."

Some design engineers saw the kitchen as a place to accomplish ideals of efficiency and even equality. The centerpiece of the exhibit is the iconic Frankfurt Kitchen, which exemplifies efficiency.

Designed in 1926-27 by Margarete Schutte-Lihotzky, its compact and ergonomic design integrates storage, appliances, and work surfaces and aimed to transform the lives of ordinary working people on an ambitious scale.

About 10,000 of the kitchens were made for public housing built around Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany after World War One as part of a five-year program to modernize the city.

"They'd just come through the complete upheaval following the First World War and there was a real commitment to trying to try to improve life," Kinchin explained.   Continued...