Háztartás-racionalizálás és modern konyha

The principles of Taylorism extended beyond the architectural concepts for the utilization of living spaces, affecting another aspect of the home. This idea of scientific household management was born from the theoretical model of scientific industrial management. The movement for rationalizing the household that blossomed at the beginning of the 20th century in the United States also appeared in European countries, including Hungary, and became institutionalized in the interwar years to differing degrees.

The Hungarian representatives of the movement to rationalize the household in line with the principles of Taylorism did not diverge from the tenets propagated by the movement spreading in America, and from there to Europe. Their stated goal was also to develop homemaking in a factory-like manner, to Taylorize it. This meant to achieve greater efficiency in saving work, materials, and time, through which the time and ability to work of the woman performing the household work would be freed up in part. “The ‘good housewife’ in the modern sense is more the person who can perform the household work in the least amount of time, consuming the least amount of energy, and with the most efficient use of materials, or in other words, in a rational manner.” (Stumpf, Károlyné: Korszerű otthon [Modern Home]. (Korszerű könyvtár.) [Budapest, 1943] 3.) The movement created special institutions in Hungary as well. The first in the private sphere was the Homemaking Department of the National Association of Catholic Housewives, established in 1928 with Mrs. Károly Stumpf as president. On a state level, the creation of the Hungarian Rationalization Commission’s Household Efficiency Department represented its institutionalization a few years later, at the end of 1934. The operation of the two developing institutions extended to the tracking of international events and results, participating in these, and familiarizing the country with the way of thinking and practices represented by the movement. The department of the Hungarian Rationalization Commission organized a series of presentations in the winter of 1937-1938 to both popularize and explain the science of the movement. A report at the 7th International Rationalization Congress held in Washington in 1940 was even dedicated to one of the volumes in the commission’s series of publications (Az egyéni háztartások racionalizálása. Beszámoló a Washingtonban tartott VII. Nemzetközi Racionalizálási Kongresszusról [The Rationalization of Individual Households. Report from the 7th International Rationalization Congress Held in Washington]. (A Magyar Racionalizálási Bizottság kiadványai 20.) Budapest, Magyar Racionalizálási Bizottság, 1940). The department of the National Association of Catholic Housewives also popularized the new approach to housework and homemaking through articles presenting foreign achievements as well as books and presentations of household advice. Mrs. Károly Stumpf announced the catch phrase: “Let’s introduce the Taylor system to household work as well”. The exhibitions were also used to propagate the new kind of homemaking, and the most modern household appliances of the large companies and Budapest factories were displayed at the Museum of Industrial Technology in 1928. Mrs. Károly Stumpf wrote a book in 1943 in the Korszerű könyvtár (Modern Library) series entitled Korszerű otthon (Modern Home) promising “a quick, brief, but thorough method of spreading knowledge on the pace of today’s times”, which presented the principles and practices of household rationalization. Then she made a presentation in the spring of 1944 entitled “Home Use from the Perspective of Economical Homemaking” at the Small Home Construction Conference organized by the Hungarian Association of Engineers and Architects.

Outside of these forums, the theory of rational household management appeared in the articles of various trade journals, and the concept of the modern, factory-style kitchen was even included in the interior design advice books by Pál Nádai (Nádai, Pál: Ház, napfény, kert [House, Sunlight, Garden]. Budapest, [1932] 36–38.; Nádai, Pál: A lakásberendezés művészete [The Art of Home Furnishing]. Budapest, [1939] 191–203.). At the same time, in contrast to the United States and other European countries, no university department, research institute, or vocational schools teaching factory-style household management were created during the movement’s institutionalization in Hungary. In addition, Christine Frederick’s 1913 work that provided the basis for scientific household management, Efficiency Studies in Home Management, was not translated into Hungarian.

A kind of cooperation developed between the household rationalization movement and the architects dealing with the problems of modern housing. The Rationalization Commission’s Household Efficiency Department had been established at the grand hall of the Hungarian Association of Engineers and Architects, and even after this, it regularly held its meetings on the premises of the association. In addition, the two organizations held presentations at each other’s meetings. For example, Iván Kotsis appeared at the department’s meeting held at the premises of the association in December of 1940, presenting a lecture entitled “Today’s Tasks for Housing”. Personal relationships were also behind the institutional connections. In addition to women who were aristocratic or in the economic elite through their husbands, and thus participated in public education and enlightenment as a part of their traditional charitable activities, the wives of architects or men in the wider circles of the technical university also stepped forward as organizers in the household rationalization movement. Amongst others, Mrs. Aladár Münnich and the wife of the former dean of the school of mechanical engineering, Mrs. Miksa Hermann were both a part of the preparatory committee during the development of the Household Efficiency Department. Mrs. Tibor Tuzson (née Miretta Hültl) participated in the movement as the wife of a mechanical engineering professor at the technical university. She was the granddaughter of Alajos Hauszmann, the daughter of the architect Dezső Hültl, and also the sister-in-law of Iván Kotsis, and thus a member of a dynasty at the technical university.

The Taylorization of work in the home, or in other words, conceiving household work as an industrial process, also had direct architectural connections in the theory of the modern kitchen. The proportioning and equipping of the kitchen became one of the key issues for modern housing: “Today, most literature about functional areas is on kitchens. Incredible attention has been directed towards this Cinderella of the home during the rebirth of construction after the war, and an entire series of housing estates and builders’ exhibitions have documented the “little” kitchen with great success. The kitchens for the dining cars of express trains have been an example of how to cook for as many as one hundred people in a small space, easily seeing to preparation and serving.” (Kozma, Lajos: Kislakások minimal-helyiségeiről [Small Housing from Their Minimal Rooms]. Tér és Forma, 1936, 2, 48.) The essence of the kitchen as a featured site for rationalized housekeeping was as an efficiently functioning unit with a small amount of floor space, eliminating all unnecessary movement through proper arrangement and thereby promoting the principle of time management. It was fabricated through factory mass production based on standardization and the development of proper types of equipment, and was designed to use either built-in or movable systems. These principles were embodied by the so-called Frankfurt kitchen designed by the Austrian architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky in 1926. Her kitchen system with built-in elements was made as the kitchen installation for the housing estates built between 1926 and 1932 in the city of Frankfurt, the first practical implementation of the connection between the Taylorization of household work, large-scale industrial mass production, and housing construction.  

The creation of the model for the Frankfurt kitchen was immediately remarked upon by the Hungarian architectural media. The architectural concept of the modern kitchen entered the architectural discourse in Hungary as well, and this was primarily in opposition to the practices prescribed by building regulations. In contrast to the codes in force for the Budapest building regulations, the relaxed rules introduced in 1926 first made it possible for the size of the kitchen to be reduced below 10 m2 in apartments with a single room, two rooms and a servant’s room, or three rooms and a servant’s room. In apartments with two rooms but no servant’s room as well as those with four or more rooms, 10 m2 was prescribed. One member of the Hungarian group of CIRPAC, József Fischer, reacted essentially instantly to the birth of the new type of kitchen in Germany in his critique comparing the Frankfurt workers’ housing estate and the OTI estate in the Albertfalva district of Budapest. (Fischer, József: Az albertfalvai építkezéshez [On the Construction in Albertfalva]. Munka, 1929, 10, 316–317.) In his comparison of the two housing estates, he pointed out the faults of the 10-11 m2 kitchens of the OTI estate in comparison with the 4-6 m2 Frankfurt kitchen by setting the floor space of the individual rooms alongside one another. He found it unacceptable that while 61-67% of the smaller area of the Frankfurt apartments went to the living spaces, in Budapest this proportion was only 41-47%. The “Collective House” Exhibition organized by the Hungarian group of CIRPAC in the autumn of 1931 drew attention to the flawed regulations that lagged behind modern theories. This was based on the fact that a modern kitchen was functional at 4 m2, and this was the size that ensured efficient housework that would not waste time and energy. “The example displayed at the exhibition can also serve at the same time to enlighten the authorities. After all, the codes make the construction of minimal apartments, for which there is a clear shortage, more difficult by requiring a 10 m2 area for the kitchen when a well-arranged kitchen could fit in 4 m2 as could be seen. Saving space in the kitchen also means saving effort. The goal is for it to be possible to reach everything and do everything while seated.” (Stern, Károly: A CIRPAC magyar szekció kollektív-ház kiállítása [The Collective House Exhibition of the Hungarian Section of CIRPAC]. Tér és Forma, 1931, 10, 333.) Other architects also argued against large kitchens, saying that they were directly linked to the condemned practice of taking in lodgers.

The so-called supplement II of the Budapest Metropolitan Building Codes that came into force in 1933 brought about a change in the realm of the official regulations. It allowed for kitchens smaller than 8 m2 in apartments of one and two rooms if they were built fully furnished. This type of kitchen was called a kitchenette. The new building codes that came into effect in 1940 brought about even more changes in different aspects. Now, the kitchen in any apartment did not need to be 10 m2, 8 m2 was enough. At the same time, the regulations for kitchenettes, in other words, fully furnished small kitchens indicated in the plans, were also modified. Kitchenettes were allowed in apartments with up to two rooms, a foyer, and a servant’s room, and their size was restricted to 3 m2.

Ágnes Nagy (Translation from Hungarian: Charles Horton)