Counter Space: Design And The Modern Kitchen

"Meal machine, experimental laboratory, status symbol, domestic prison, or the creative and spiritual heart of the home"?

This weekend, an exciting exhibition opened at MOMA in NYC, titled Counter Space:  Design And The Modern Kitchen. The exhibit runs from September 15, 2010 to March 14, 2011. Organized in conjunction with their newest publication Modern Women:  Women Artists at The Museum of Modern Art,  the exhibit presents a fully assembled Frankfurt Kitchen from the Hohenblick Housing Estate, Ginnheim, Frankfurt, Germany from 1926-1927.

Designed by architect Margarete Schutte-Lihotzky (1897-2000), "The Frankfurt Kitchen was designed like a laboratory or factory and based on contemporary theories about efficiency, hygiene, and workflow". "Over the course of the past century no other room has been the focus of such intensive aesthetic and technological innovation, or as loaded with cultural significance. Kitchen design has been both a central concern of modernism and fundamental to our concept of modern life. Drawn entirely from MoMA’s collection, this exhibition explores the twentieth-century transformation of the kitchen as a barometer of changing technologies, aesthetics, and ideologies".

"The Frankfurt Kitchen in MoMA’s collection, on view in the exhibition,  was salvaged in 1993 from the second floor of the corner house in this photograph (124 Kurhessenstrasse). Flat roofs and standardized forms were characteristic of the estates built for the New Frankfurt. In 1930 Ernst May stated: “The exterior form of the Frankfurt housing estates developed out of the given facts of the interiors and rejects the pretentious gestures and decorative embellishments of old or new origin."

Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky. Frankfurt Kitchen from the Höhenblick Housing Estate, Frankfurt, Germany (reconstruction). 1926–27.  The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Joan R. Brewster in memory of her Husband George W.W. Brewster, by exchange and the Architecture & Design Purchase Fund.

Plan of the Frankfurt Kitchen indicating its labor saving features 1927

Grete Schütte-Lihotzky (seated) with colleagues from the Frankfurt Municipal Building Department c. 1928 "Schütte-Lihotzky was the only woman in the team of architects assembled by Ernst May, director of Frankfurt’s Municipal Building Department. The white lab coats worn by the architects emphasize the team’s rational, scientific approach" .


It is a rare and wonderful opportunity to experience modular kitchen design of this era, up close and personal.  This kitchen is an excellent example of early prefab design. What I appreciate most about the Frankfurt Kitchen is the timelessness, which is due to purposeful planning, based on function rather than trend. Efficiency and organization is evident in the design of the space.  Every element and detail, such as these built in canisters for food storage, were beautiful custom solutions to everyday design problems. I believe this kitchen would function beautifully in a modern day home. I'd love to move in! Enjoy the show!


Get more information about the Counter Space:  Design And The Modern Kitchen exhibit.

Exhibition Detail
Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019
September 15, 2010 to March 14, 2011
All quotations and photography courtesy of the exhibition website at :

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