Monday, April 22, 2013

Einkuechenhaeuser (One-kitchen-buildings): a 20th century architectural-social experiment

The term Einküchenhaus translates into English as one-kitchen-building. It describes a building typology that was used to experiment with concepts of communal living and housing in the beginning of the 20th century. Multi-unit residential buildings or housing complexes facilitated by one central kitchen were emerging in many industrializing cities in North America, Western Europe and Russia questioning and reorganizing reproductive labor. They were realized in varying forms and for different reasons – as tools for emancipation for the early women's movement, as reformist, socialist or communist experiments, but also out of a mere capitalist interest in economic profit.

This brief outline follows the history of the Einküchenhaus along several examples as to show not only the continuities and developments but also conflicts and contradictions (e.g. class conflicts) persisting throughout the typology's history. There are of course many more examples that cannot be all included in a brief introduction like this – some of them have become classic examples of the history of modern architecture like the Narkomfin building, a test project for state organized communal living built in 1932 in Moscow, or the Heimhof Einküchenhaus in Vienna, which was incorporated into the building activities of Red Vienna.