The house with a kitchen – room service in the Lietzensee

Excuse me, no kitchens in the apartments? A scandal! Instead, the “creation of central kitchens, central laundries and the introduction of central heating”, as well as dining rooms, nurseries and gyms? Really a scandal! The headwind hitting this new life form is taking on the strength of a hurricane. There is talk of “future stable for rabbits” and “feeding in the barracks”, the conservative parties see the family unit in danger. Because without a kitchen there can be no offspring.

Lily Braun asks about the compatibility between motherhood and work

What happened? Women’s rights activist and social democrat Lily Braun, who campaigned for compatibility between motherhood and work, wrote in a controversy in 1901, calling for women to be freed from “housework slavery” by building “homes.” with a kitchen “.

Berliner Verlag / Yva

“Get out of the corset!” is the motto of the time. This applies not only to the wardrobe, but also to the living conditions. Because more and more women, both from bourgeois and proletarian circles, are employed, especially in large cities. Pioneers like Lily Braun, Clara Zetkin and August Bebel or architect Bruno Taut agree that grueling and time-consuming housework should no longer prevent women from taking part in social life. But there is also a headwind in their ranks: Clara Zetkin views privately organized Berlin single-kitchen houses as elitist. For workers living in poor conditions in public housing, the costs are simply too high. He should be right.

The first house with a kitchen on the Lietzensee

The first German houses with a kitchen are built on the outskirts of Berlin. On 1 October 1908, the women, with and without families, move into the house with a kitchen on the Lietzensee. The five-story residential building on Kuno-Fischer-Straße 13 in Charlottenburg, designed by architect Curt Jähler, has a central kitchen in the basement. Residents can use their home phones to order food, and elevators carry meals to two- to five-room apartments. All the apartments are occupied in an instant.

CBY 3.0

Around 1900, Lily Braun advocated compatibility between family and career. The women’s rights activist supports the collectivization of housework in central kitchens.

A few months later, on 1 April 1909, there are two more residential complexes with jointly organized household structures, one at Wilhelmshöher Strasse 17-20 in Friedenau, the other at Unter den Eichen 53 in Lichterfelde-West. Reform architects Albert Gessner and Hermann Muthesius designed the buildings. In addition to the central kitchen, dumbwaiter, roof terrace, gymnasiums, bicycle storage and green areas, the complex built by Gessner in Friedenau also has a nursery school run by progressive educators. However, it is not the workers who move, but wealthy families and single women.

An emancipated idea fails in Berlin

All three houses with a Berlin kitchen are privately built and operated. However, the “Einküchenhaus-Gesellschaft der Berliner Vororte” founded in 1907 went bankrupt a few months after the opening of the Muthesius complex. Houses are expensive, capital contributions too low.

Ulstein’s photo

A waitress serves a meal to her master from the freight elevator.

The resistance of the conservative camp is great, women’s rights activists are at odds. When the Social Democrats also rediscovered the bourgeois family model, the Berlin mono kitchen is dead. The upheavals of the First World War finally put an end to the reform project. The central kitchen of the Lietzensee was closed in 1913, in Lichterfelde in 1915 and in Friedenau in 1917/18. All apartments have a built-in kitchen. From now on, every woman will be in the kitchen again.

In Berlin, the house with a kitchen went bankrupt, but in other cities there were similar collective housing projects after the First World War. These include the Heimhof in Vienna, the Narkomfin Municipal Building in Moscow and the Isokon Flats (Lawn Road Flats, Isokon Building) in London. Agatha Christie, Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius sometimes live in the latter.


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