Upon entry to Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen, it seems like just a kitschy and fun design exhibition. It is essentially a design exhibition, but the presentation goes beyond mere form, space, and utility. It encompasses the kitchen on every level, from its uses and physical elements to its meanings and roles within society.
The impetus for this show was the museum’s newly acquired Frankfurt Kitchen, designed in the mid-1920s by Grete Schütte-Lihotzky. Her design was based on contemporary theories about efficiency, hygiene, and workflow. At the turn of the 20th century the western world became preoccupied with progress and technology. Many new materials and innovations were being developed, including those for the domestic arena. Within this environment, society took on the new kitchen with enthusiasm. Visitors to the exhibit see this celebrated in a variety of interesting dishes, containers, utensils, furniture, and appliances. Virgilio Forchiassin’s Mobile Kitchen Unit, an all-in-one, fold-up kitchen, is particularly intriguing.
The selections mentioned here are only a fraction of the many art forms used to trace the functional and societal roles the kitchen has employed since the early 20th century. Design, photographs, video, sculpture, advertisements, posters, and packaging, illustrate the kitchen’s form and utility as well as the deeper issues regarding the domestic role of women, family life, and consumerism. The mood of the display ranges from mundane to profound with a fair bit of humor mixed in. Overall, it is a delight and if you have the chance to see it, its well worth the trip.