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Grete Lihotzky, "Rationalization in the Household" (1926-27)

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The Frankfurt Housewives’ Association had its own display at the exhibition and it illustrated the importance of household rationalization particularly well. This part of the exhibition, called “The Modern Household,” was primarily concerned with the problem of the labor-saving kitchen. Displayed first of all was a completely furnished dining-car kitchen and sideboard, which offered a particularly instructive example of how steps and other unnecessary movements can be saved. Three more fully equipped kitchens with built-in furniture (of which the first two have been exhibited about three thousand times in Frankfurt) show how effort can be saved by proper layout and furniture arrangement. Here the three different kinds of kitchen operations were taken into account: (1) households without a maid (with annual incomes up to about 5,000 marks); (2) households with one maid (with annual incomes of up to 10,000 marks); and (3) households with two maids (with annual incomes over 10,000 marks).

Aside from wooden kitchen furnishings, the display also included a small cooking corner made of metal for bachelor apartments and a kitchen made of washable bricks; these last two kitchens represent attempts to find appropriate new materials that are less affected by external influences than wood. All of the kitchens are small, to save effort, and can be separated off completely from the dwelling’s living area. The old style of combining kitchen and living space seems to have been superseded. Also exhibited were examples of free-standing kitchen furniture that is already on the market and contributes considerably to easing household work. Good and bad household and kitchen appliances—laborwasting and labor-saving, hard and easy to clean—were identified by signs of different colors. Drying racks for bowls, plates, and cups, which save the work of drying the chinaware, and flour hoppers that dispense a specific, measured amount of flour into the bowl, represent devices that have been tried and approved by women in other countries for some time.

The exhibition devoted particular attention to electrical devices and appliances. Although not yet practical for lower income levels, we know that the not-too-distant future belongs to the electrical kitchen. The centralized electrical laundry facilities that had to be installed in the larger housing blocks should provide women with an example of the labor that can be saved, and encourage them to have smaller laundry rooms, which are already a reasonable investment for lower-income families, in their own homes. In a central washing facility in Frankfurt, the renters requested that manually operated washing machines be installed in addition to the electric ones. Now, after a year, the manually operated machines go unused, since all of the women want to do their wash in the other ones.

“The smallest bath in the smallest space,” about five feet by four, proves that the demand “a bath for every dwelling” no longer represents an unrealizable ideal. A 1:10 model of a flat demonstrates the possibility of saving room by slipping a “wash and shower stall” between two bedrooms as well as by installing a shower room requiring only five and a half square feet. The constant flow of water makes a more thorough cleansing possible than can be had in a tub.

The extensive use of natural gas in the household is illustrated by a model of a one-family house fully supplied with gas. The exhibition took special pains to investigate the important topic of good lighting in the home. How much money can be saved solely through the choice of a wallpaper designed to enhance illumination! How important it is for the health of the family that women, who represent the majority of the buyers, be directed to the correct and technically satisfactory work lamps, so that they do not keep on thoughtlessly buying the small, ornate floor lamps with dust-gathering silk shades.

It is often for the silliest reasons that we are expected to surround ourselves with badly designed things. There is, for example, a large lamp factory whose stock consists exclusively of tasteless and impractical lamps. It produces inferior models because they are needed for large-scale export to India, while the small domestic turnover in new, good models makes their production unprofitable.

Are we supposed to spend our money on these bad lamps and ruin our eyes so that local lamps can be sent to the Indian colonies?

Here, as in all things, it must be a general principle, in particular for women, not to accept thoughtlessly whatever comes on the market, not to choose things that seem pretty at the moment, but to check for appropriateness and faultless technical quality.

This exhibition should sharpen the eye for that task.

Source of English translation: Grete Lihotzky, “Rationalization in the Household” (1926-27), in The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, edited by Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward Dimendberg. © 1994 Regents of the University of California. Published by the University of California Press, pp. 462-65. Reprinted with permission of the University of California Press.

Source of original German text: Grete Lihotzky, “Rationalisierung im Haushalt,” Das neue Frankfurt, no. 5 (1926-27), pp. 120-23.

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