Cuisine, cooking, kitchens
Maëlle Campagnoli
Research head & writer specialized in design
Lecturer in history of design, Créapole
Chronological landmarks

Chronological landmarks
1912: Christine Frederick publishes a series in the Ladies Home Journal entitled ‘The New Housekeeping’. In 1913 she gathered her articles to publish a book: Household Engineering, Scientific Management in the Home. That same year Lilian Gilbreth published layout diagrams for kitchens based on the number of footsteps taken to make a coffee cake.
1923: First Salon des arts ménagers held in France. Around this time trade fairs for interior architecture & decoration began to proliferate in Europe and the USA, stimulating the spread of ideas and the industrial development of household appliances.
1926: In the framework of a commission to build social housing given to Ernst May by the City of Frankfurt, Margarete Schütte Lihotzky designs the first integrated model kitchen, later known as the Frankfurt kitchen.
1945-1952: Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand design the ‘Atelier Le Corbusier type 1’ kitchen for the cité Radieuse home unit block in Marseilles. It was an open model with a storage bar marking separation from the rest of the living space. This principle enabled Le Corbusier to design an enclosed space with no window.
1950-1960: Uniformization and standardization of forms. The production of fittings for kitchens becomes homogeneous. The profession of ‘kitchen-maker’ starts to develop.
1957: Salon des arts ménagers. Exhibition of kitchen produced by General Motors in partnership with Frigidaire, under the patronage of Paris Match and Marie Claire. The review Arts ménagers (April 1957) runs two double pages reports entitled ‘A Kitchen that Make You Dream’.
1963: Joe Colombo designs the Mini Kitchen produced by Boffi.
1966: Working for the Boffi firm in collaboration with Abet, a manufacturer of stratified materials, Colombo designs the ‘Central Block Kitchen’, a revolution in kitchen typologies and representations of habitat: a kitchen island.
2007-2008: Whirlpool designs the ‘Greenkitchen’, a top-performing kitchen in terms of energy consumption.
2008: Bulthaup with EOOS Design developed the B2 ‘workshop kitchen’, commercialized in November of the same year.


More than any other living space – since it is there that the daily business of preparing our meals goes on –, the kitchen is a place that reflects strong emotional ties and clear representations of life styles. It is there that the arts and techniques that characterize the way we live and eat are invented and practised, in simple gestures, many of them age-old, while others reflect new ways of doing things. Ritualized, rationalized, hierarchy-bound, partitioned off, relegated, open, stylized, carefully planned – the kitchen is not just a room like any other. It is an open-ended space, permeable to the outside world and its mutations. Authoress Luce Giard says that kitchens are ‘by right one of the high points of ordinary culture’ 1. Countless problems, situations, actions and interplays come together there in overlays. Historically, more than any other living space the kitchen is a metonymy for habitat2: the part standing for the whole. We are bound to admit that whether it be carefully prepared dishes or frozen heat-ups, what goes into our pots is vital to our subsistence.

The ‘Carte Blanche’ project submitted by the Faltazi is all about the kitchen. It presents this living space as the theatre of a soft transition towards other modes of living, other habits and behaviour patterns, which are turned toward the exterior. For these designers, it is in the kitchen that the change to a sustainable, habitable world takes place.

The state of things

By the early 20th century, the accumulated effects of the Industrial Revolution and the rural exodus that was its corollary had made urban housing one of the prime concerns of public authorities and design professionals. People had to be shown how to live in a modern community in an urban environment. The swift and massive growth of towns generated unprecedented housing shortages and untold problems, not the least those related to hygiene. People were introduced to new ways of living by technical and technological innovations, and there was blind faith in progress. By the 1920s, the household kitchen had come to the fore in social, political, economic and architectural spheres. Model kitchens proliferated all along the 20th century, and as a vital space in any representation of habitat, embodied the surest indicator of socio-cultural trends and changes in ways of thinking.

In her book Kitchens, Recipes for Architecture3, Catherine Clarisse enumerates the many factors that were at the origin of evolutions in typologies and fit-outs for kitchens: the integration of new networks into living space (water, gas, later electricity), changes in eating habits due to the development of the agricultural-foodstuffs industries, the emergence of the housewife as a figure – all of which came together to form what she calls ‘the crisis of domesticity’. Equipments for the home benefited from advances in techniques. Services came into being, such as the collection of household wastes. Between 1926 and 1930 for example, the municipality of Frankfurt-on-the-Main, in an attempt to implement sweeping changes to the city and to society, hired architect Ernst May to direct a housing construction project, known as the ‘Neues Frankfurt’ scheme4. The underlying idea was that the industrialization of housing construction was a factor for progress. The municipality believed that many social problems might be resolved, at least in part, by technical means and solutions. For May, the most important thing was to preserve health and hygiene in habitat, and thus in the community. Houses were positioned according to exposure to sunlight and were well ventilated. Working to the same brief, in 1926 Margarete Schütte Lihotzky designed the famous Frankfurt kitchen, which was the first integrated model kitchen. She had been influenced by American theories on the subject, in particular those of Lilian Gilbreth, which had been published in Germany in 1924. The space she designed was functional, rational and economic, there were no tables or chairs but there was a large window. The basic components of the fit-out were industrially prefabricated, made to standard dimensions to be installed around the walls of the room. Space was laid out around focal points: the ‘hearth’, meaning a big cast iron stove equipped with a Norwegian oven, which served for cooking food and doing the family laundry, metal drawers for storing bulk-buy foodstuffs, a work top equipped with a disposal hatch for peelings. It was an enclosed kitchen, separated from the rest of living space. Meals were not served there but in the dining room. During the same period, eating habits and ways of preparing food changed. A chicken would no longer be cleaned by the housewife in her kitchen, but by the butcher. The proportion of homes that kept servants had fallen away radically; people who might have been domestics now worked in factories. The woman of the house became the main player in the home, if not the symbol of home-life itself5. She was embodied in a new figure, that of the housewife. Her everyday activities became the subject of advanced scientific studies, financed by big industry, and were ‘air-brushed’ to the point of being presented as a highly skilled form of work. Influenced by Taylorism, American home economy writers like Lilian Gilbreth, Catharine Beecher and Christine Fredericks laid down the principles of Good Housekeeping, and their ideas were largely relayed by their counterparts in the Old World.
While the kitchen generates the most nuisances in the home (wastes, disposal circuits, smells) it is also the most technological space. It is nothing short of a laboratory with apparatus and equipment by which tasks are rationalized, confined and planned, so much so that it can even do without a window.

This was the case with the project developed by Charlotte Perriand and Le Corbusier for the cité Radieuse home unit block in Marseilles, between 1949 and 1952. In a special issue of the journal Techniques et Architecture in 1950, entitled ‘The Art of Inhabiting’, Perriand wrote: ‘The vital cells in habitat (cooking and sanitary) respond to the needs of the body. (…) With these two functions, we enter into the nerve centre of the building; whether it be an individual home or a block of flats, all fluids converge on these two centres. And all evacuations begin there. These cells demand the closest attention on the part of the architect.’6 Maximum attention for minimum space. In this kitchen, the housewife does not so much walk about as swivel within a core space. The kitchen ‘cell’ is located deep in the habitation. Far from any window, it is lit by borrowed light, and its integration within the party walls of flats relies on ventilation ducts. The kitchen opens to the living room. This de-partitioning of space anticipated the ‘American’ open kitchen, reaffirming the relationship between meals and essential conviviality.

Between 1950 and 1960, in the heyday of ‘Household Arts’ and of trade fairs dedicated to them, the production of appliances and equipment for kitchens blew sky-high. Production costs had fallen as consumer spending increased, and the expanding market led to homogeneous, standardized forms. The period saw the birth of the famous 60x60cm caisson. It also established generals norms for construction, hygiene and safety. Little by little, architects turned aside from kitchen space (or were nudged out). The profession of kitchen-maker came into being. The Bulthaup factory in Germany and the Boffi firm in Italy were both set up in 1947. In France, Mobalpa kicked off in 1949. The rational and functional model kitchen strongly promoted by industrialists soon led to standardized fit-outs. Henceforth, it was within these standards and their programming logics that thought on opening up living space and the experiential dimension of space focused, especially in Italy. By the early 1960s kitchen makers and designers were already busy imagining compact and autonomous blocs, demountable and mobile, such as the Mini Kitchen by Joe Colombo (1963). Some of these projects were presented to the American public during an exhibition at the MOMA7 in New York in 1972: Italy, The New Domestic Landscape8. These models lay near to the heart of emerging representations of habitat, and were the forerunners of a new typology: the island or bloc, which Joe Colombo presented in prototype form at the Milan Triennale in 1966, the ‘Central Block Kitchen’. The bloc was linked to water supply and evacuation networks. The kitchen, which had always been closed, began to spread out and culinary activities became more social. In spite of its revolutionary dimension, the Colombo model remained a spur to creativity. The design of kitchen equipment proceeded by an acceptance of the standard vision of mechanization, technology and cost effectiveness. Already, at the time, various journals were predicting that by the year 2000 the ‘computer kitchen – powered by laser – transformable’, and ‘liquids with synthetic flavouring’9, in
the manner of 2001, a Space Odyssey would be common10. Which only goes to show to what extent technology exerts an irresistible fascination, what with its uninterrupted advance and the absence of limits to what it might propose: with technological solutions reigning supreme amidst the growing mechanization of movements and functions.

Today, new representations are coming to the fore, and many people aspire to go beyond the 20th century model of the ‘practical little kitchen’ to revert that of the peasant kitchen. Time spent doing housework is decreasing, but not so where cooking is concerned. People do not simply absorb ‘pills’ heated up in a micro wave for their meals. Something more vital is going on in the kitchen: it is a space where people live, make themselves at home, a space they occupy. It is a place for communication, sociability and education, for varied practises, for pleasure and taste too. In 2008, Bulthaup working with the Viennese designers EOOS developed the B2 ‘workshop kitchen’, a contemporary revival of the peasant kitchen. Ecological concerns are also coming into the kitchen. Between 2007 and 2008, Whirlpool designed and presented to the press their ‘Greenkitchen’, which was articulated around energy-savings in electrical appliances, with functions such as using the power produced by the refrigerator compressor to heat water.
So with the start of the 21st century, the arts of living are soliciting the arts of doing, and little by little the wide world in entering into the home.



1. GIARD Luce, « Faire la cuisine », in CERTEAU Michel de, GIARD Luce, MAYOL Pierre, L’invention du quotidien, 2, Habiter, cuisiner, Gallimard, 1994, Paris, p.214.
2. In practises and places, and also on the existential level.
3. CLARISSE Catherine, Cuisines, recettes d’architecture, Les éditions de l’imprimeur, collection « Tranches de ville », 2004.
4. New Frankfurt.
5. DURAS Marguerite, La Vie matérielle, POL, 1987.
6. RUEGG Arthur, “Les cellules vitales, cuisson et sanitaire”, in Charlotte Perriand, catalogue of Charlotte Perriand exhibition, Pompidou Centre, 7 Decembrer–27 March 2005, Paris, p. 130. AR quoted in Charlotte Perriand, «L’art d’habiter», offprint of Techniques et Architecture n°9–10, 1950, p. 33.
7. Museum of Modern Art.
8. See the exhibition catalogue, edited by Emilio Ambasz, commissioner: ‘Italy, the New Domestic Landscape, Achievements and Problems of Italian Design’, Museum Of Modern Art, New York in collaboration with Centre Di, Florence, 1972.
9. JOLLANT Françoise, « Cuisine», in « À table », Centre de création industrielle, Centre Georges Pompidou, in collaboration with Moët Hennessy, Paris, 1986, p.86.
10. Stanley Kubrick’s film, made in 1968.

Ekokook, collective responsibility in the heart of the home

“We have to create a new balance between the individual and the community. We have to distinguish between
the areas reserved to individual life and those that belong
to the development of collective life. We do not want
an excessive individualism on one hand and a crushing collectivism on the other. (…) We have to organize the world in a global way, and at the same time give each region
the right to cultivate and develop its own language
and its own customs.” 1 S.G.

The ‘Carte Blanche’ project by the Faltazi is inscribed in continuity with built space, its morphology, norms and standards. The designers have worked with what is existing, and this presupposition is of vital importance to them. They have designed their kitchen to integrate the selection and disposal of household wastes. This approach echoes the ecological revolution that has already begun, and extends measures initiated by the public authorities in France, notably since the Grenelle environment talks. It also applies recommendations made by the research group on wastes, such as the implementation of a pay-by-weight tax2, which is already being tested in certain communes in Alsace.
As such, the designers do not challenge existing general arrangements. Instead, they introduce into a core area of habitat ways and means of coming to terms with new sets of problems. They bring an alternative way of looking at activities in the kitchen, which are in symbiosis with the outside world and the fragility of its resources. In doing so they initiate breaks on the technological and behavioural level, which are almost anthropological in scope, and put the individual at the heart of the act of living. They question our ‘urban condition’3, our relationship to space, our presence in it, and ultimately, our relationship to other people.

We do not live alone in our dwellings. We also live in shared common spaces: the place where garbage is stored, the street, the city, and ultimately the world. Our behaviour patterns, decisions, purchasing acts have a decisive impact on the planet. Working from this awareness, Victor Massip and Laurent Lebot have focused their thought on interfaces, on the porous zones between interior and exterior, between private and collective space, and on the activities that generate nuisances there, considered in the general context of the consumer society. But we are more than just consumers. Ekokook puts earth worms (which produce very rich compost) into our kitchen, and an irrigation system into its fit-out. It gives us the possibility of following through with simple acts (such as activating a sort of pinball machine ball to break glass, an endless screw to compact metal and plastic wastes, or a manually driven shredder for paper) that enable us to reduce and even eliminate part of our household wastes. In doing so it turns us into players, producers. We are actively engaged in the global economy as part of the organization of the diverse elements of the system, and of the way in which its parts are distributed. Reducing to minimum eco-footprint the electrical appliances that we use to conserve and prepare our food encourages us to re-think our food supply and eating habits to make them more healthy, storing less and buying only what we need, in an approach that is less technological and more sustainable.

Faltazi propose an alternative: innovation by new user patterns, a feasible process for possible progress, and the practise of responsible attitudes. But what do we mean by user patterns? Simply living, with all our social practises, the way we transform things, the tools we use, the ways we use them, the processes, customs, habits and times.

Perhaps that is what it means to live in the 21st century.

1. GIEDION Siegfried, Mechanization Takes Command, French ed. Paris, Centre Pompidou/CCI, 1980, p.588.
2. Which targets household wastes. Costs for processing wastes are calculated by the community services on the quantity of bulk waste thrown out by people. Waste disposal units are equipped with micro-chips, and collection rounds are limited. The less waste, the lower the cost.
3. PAQUOT Thierry, LUSSAULT Michel and YOUNES Chris,  Habiter, le
propre de l’humain. Villes, territoires et philosophie, 2007, La Découverte, Paris.

THACKARA John, In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World, The MIT Press, London, 2005.
THACKARA John, In the Bubble: de la complexité au design durable, French ed. Cité du design de Saint-Étienne, Publications de l’université de Saint-Étienne, 2008.
PAPANEK Victor, Design pour un monde réel : écologie humaine et changement social, preface by R. Buckminster Fuller, French ed. Mercure de France, Paris, 1974.
GRIFFON Michel, Nourrir la planète, Odile Jacob, Paris, 2006.
MARGOLIN Victor, The Politics of the Artificial, Essays on Design and Design Studies, The University of Chicago Press, London, 2002.
GIEDION Siegfried, Mechanization Takes Command, French ed. Centre Pompidou/CCI, Paris, 1980.
PAQUOT Thierry, LUSSAULT Michel & YOUNES Chris, Habiter, le propre de l’humain. Villes, territoires et philosophie, La Découverte, Paris, 2007.
CLARISSE Catherine, Cuisines, recettes d’architecture, Les éditions de l’imprimeur, « Tranches de ville » series, 2004.