31May
Design Extinction! Kitchen Design musings

Can you imagine a world in which the kitchen did not exist?  Immediately you may question the ability to erase thousands of years of culinary and functional development.  The ergonomic and social evolution of the kitchen has undoubtedly helped to shape our cultural infrastructure, so it would be difficult to imagine our world remaining unchanged without the social support structure that the kitchen offers us.

In many ways the kitchen has become more accepted, a cherished social anchor for our families to tether themselves to, a magnetic hub of communication which assists the development of our individual family unit while facilitating their basic survival.  But although we are now breaking down walls and releasing the kitchen into an open plan communal setting, it can be argued that we are still asking the kitchen to enhance our social experience while still remaining anonymous!

Are we now beginning to understand and accept the benefits of the “human kitchen” while rejecting any overtly functional aspects of kitchen design!  Key functional kitchen features are now becoming celebrated because they have been designed to be aesthetically neutral; they are now recognised for being unrecognisable, they are being designed out of existence!

One area of kitchen design where this is becoming very obvious is the field of kitchen extraction.  Going back to the beginning of time the hob was a fire and the extractor was a chimney, a very obvious architectural structure.  Gradually over time both the fire and the chimney become a little more refined, but still managed to remain a cumbersome and dominant feature within the kitchen.  The impact of the traditional extraction canopy was both visual and auditory; and if it wasn’t very efficient the extractor could also change the spatial atmosphere by allowing cooking smells to pollute our living environment.  It was only by making extraction systems more efficient and less obvious that we could begin to seriously design the kitchen into an open plan space.

Extraction systems are now a fundamental part of the R.O.A.S.T theory of kitchen design as they can be Remotely Operated, Architecturally Separated Transformers.  Most ceiling fans are remotely operated as they are positioned at an unreachable physical height for the user.  These ceiling fans are visually unobtrusive, providing clear social and aesthetical sight lines when the cooking zone is positioned on an island.  Downdraft extractors are transformers and if they are using a carbon filtration system it can also be argued that they are architecturally separated, being housed within the kitchen cabinetry and therefore detached and uninfluenced by the surrounding architecture.

The redesigning and virtual removal of the traditional extractor from modern kitchen design has also led to the blurring of the boundaries between kitchen and interior design.  There are now many stylish pendent extractors that are disguised as light fixtures and fittings having the ability to substantially impact on the visual experience for the user and make a serious contribution to the internal decor.

We are also eliminating other key elements from the kitchen of old; the kettle is now being replaced with a boiling water tap, appliances are being concealed behind pocket doors and transforming elements and we are taking the view that out of sight is out of mind.  The kitchen has been diluted making it more acceptable within our living space.   The kitchen is now the backdrop to our home lives occasionally being invited centre stage to perform functional wizardry while at times shyly regressing into the background!  The ability for the kitchen to move between positions of use means that the open plan living space is ultimately controllable by the user!

In many ways the physical kitchen that we knew when we were children no longer exists but the traditional social experience that helps to frame our memories is still very recognisable.  It could be argued that kitchen design is a complex design discipline but it is also a social science!