MOMA: Design & the Modern Kitchen

“The cost of bringing the Absolute into the kitchen is to soil it. The pretensions of Good Design require us to bring the noblest concepts of the humanistic tradition into direct confrontation with scrambled egg and soiled nappies… The big white abstractions must be devalued, ultimately, by these associations with dirt and muck and domestic grottitude.” – Reyner Banham, “Household Godjets,” 1970

This quote adorned the wall at Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). It speaks to a universal truth about the most thoughtfully designed room in the modern household — that the most successful and pristine design fosters the making of messes. I just love this.

Maureen and I ventured to MoMA specifically to see this exhibit, which is a celebration of the influences and factors of kitchen design in the modern age – not just technology advances and new gadgets and labour-saving devices, but the changing purpose of the room, from work room, to spartanly functional “housewives'” haven, to modern social nerve centre.

 

I liked these for some reason…
…can’t put my finger on it.

Because it was MoMA, there were paintings, photography and sculpture that were kitchen-themed, in addition to the samples of kitchenware, gadgets and even fully functional kitchens from post world-war 1 Germany and early-60’s Italy.

The 1920’s German Kitchen of the future.
Utilitarian but highly functional and complete

 

Semi-automatic. Hah!
Italian-designed portable kitchen.

It was a little troubling, but also kind of fun to see relics from a different age and reminisce. “Hey, remember those, we had those when we were a kid!” Noticeably absent: Chip-and-dips, and avocado green fondue sets. It does remind of us of the incredible social, cultural and familial connection we make to our kitchen, our parent’s kitchen (maybe even our grandparents’ kitchen) and its power as a memory maker and daily tribute to form and function.

Kitchen clock with timer built in
Tupperware! We had all this as kids.

Most of these pictures are self explanatory. But when you look at them, experience the design elements and then look at your own kitchen and marvel.

 

One thought on “MOMA: Design & the Modern Kitchen”

  1. Tupperware!…reminds me of my grandmother – and then, of course, MY mother had to buy it! I did go to a Tupperware party once (more like a gathering, ’cause partying had nothin’ to do with it!), and I remember not being able to get over the seemingly endless types of containers…and the colours! Yes, there is something very orderly about the kitchen and how we have made it function for us. Definitely the nerve center of the house…cooking, gathering, dining, partying, and the occasional disciplining from my mom with the wooden spoon. I knew when she was going for that second kitchen utensil drawer, that I’d better start running!

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