The Concept of the Frankfurt Kitchen


The design of the Frankfurt Kitchen has hitherto been attributed solely to the architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky. In the last 10 years, however, science has cast doubt on this fact, although research on the topic is still in its infancy.

The concept of the Frankfurt Kitchen embodies the idea that architecture not only has to fulfil a function but must also create spaces in which people like to spend time. In Frankfurt’s Structural Engineering Department Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky was entrusted with the rationalization of home economics and its implementation in residential building. Her interest focussed on labour-saving ideas for the working woman. The sliding door, which connected kitchen and living room, was intended to simplify and shorten the way to the dining area and allow the supervision of children at play. One wanted to abolish unnecessary ways and the so-called reduction of paces was a major objective of planners. It was estimated that the way between cooker and dining table amounted to 19m in a conventional large kitchen, but only 8m in the Frankfurt kitchen.

The position of the sink in relation to the table, the area for dirty dishes, the draining board and drainer eliminated any crossing of the hands. The working steps could be carried out in sequence and above all rapidly. To this purpose a plate draining rack was designed that eliminated the irksome and time-consuming drying of the dishes.

Further keynotes in the kitchen design were the lighting, the colours, the proportions of the equipment and the arrangement of the cupboard spaces. For the lighting a lamp was developed that was installed on a rail in the ceiling. By sliding it backwards and forwards the small room could be completely illuminated, the lampshade was constructed so that the person working in the kitchen never threw a shadow. Blue was the preferred colour of the Frankfurt Kitchen. Scientists at Frankfurt University namely had established that flies do not react to blue.

Typical for the period was the provision of large stocks of flour in the kitchen. Oak drawers were foreseen here whose tannic acid prevented worms from contaminating the flour. Pots and pans were hung up and not stood so that they could dry on the hooks.

The functional kitchen saved money. This was also the reason that its installation was sanctioned by Frankfurt’s city councillor assembly. Between 1926 and 1930 no council dwelling was permitted to be built without the Frankfurt Kitchen. During this period almost 10 000 dwellings were constructed.

The design collection of the Bergische University in Wuppertal, the largest university collection in Germany, has a complete Frankfurt Kitchen from the Römerstadt housing estate.