Die Trillke Küche
Interact Festival
Hildesheim, Germany
August 2006
A collaboration with Frances Bowman

We were invited to take part in a residency in Trillke Gut, a living cooperative of approximately 50 adults, housed in an old boarding school on the outskirts of Hildesheim.
We were asked to respond to the political text ‘Free Cooperation’ by Christoph Spehr and to consider its relation to the co-operative and its residents. The part of the free co-operation article which most resonated with us was the suggestion that politics be returned to the kitchen. The kitchen operates as a pivotal interface between the state, the economy and the home; it acts to demarcate the boundaries between production and consumption, the public and private spheres and also between the genders. In the modern nuclear family, the housewife became ever more confined to the kitchen and social utopian thinking of the 1920s contributed further to this confinement. Die Frankfurter Küche, a 1926 radical model for kitchen layout, symbolises the complicated relationship between design and utopia. Its efficiency was intended to emancipate women from domestic duties, but the result was further isolation in a room built for one domestic worker.

Coming back to the kitchen normally means returning to the nuclear family. By locating ourselves in the kitchens of the Trillke, we were interested to see what happens in the kitchen of a domestic space that operates for more complex groups of people. The nature of the Trillke flats means that the kitchen operates as not only a place for the preparation of food by one person as in Die Frankfurter Küche, but contains a complex web of interactions - cooking, eating, looking after children, working, meetings, playing music, reading, etc. Rather than definitive design, we encountered kitchens that had evolved over time, changing to suit demand and incorporating pre-existing parts of the building.

In reference to Die Frankfurter Küche we made time motion studies of the Trillke kitchens. These were presented in the form of diagrams on seven monochrome posters. Using this ultimately anthropological method we encountered its problems and found ourselves having to moderate our approach as we began to understand the complicated nature of the public and private boundaries in the kitchen of the Trillke, learned to accept our status as outsiders and the necessarily incomplete nature of our endeavour.

By making a visual comparison to The Frankfurt Kitchen we hope to illustrate the changing nature of utopianism by acknowledging the way that social change and social theory develop in relation to each other. After the main exhibition of the ‘Interact’ project, we returned a copy of each poster to the kitchen in which the study had been done.

The posh white on black prints of the time-motion studies presented as
a series on the vernissage were an attraction for many visitors and made
the people of the Trillke smile. They are now hanging in the kitchens of
the flat shares or even on the outside of the kitchen doors, as if providing
the visitor with vital and detailed information on how the kitchen
worked and as proudly as if they were certificates.
– Klaus Thorn, Square Kitchen


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