Theses Master's

Back to the City, the Kitchen and the Suburbs: Trends in Residential Settlement, Food Culture and Domestic Labour Practices since WWII

Thrakrar, Ushma

The kitchen has always been a central tenant in the American household. Allusions to the kitchen as both the ‘heart’ and the ‘hearth’ of the family evoke both to the normative notions of the kitchen as the designated space for domestic food preparation and as the station of the female head of household: both fundamental sources of life for the household space. The residential kitchen has historically been understood through these two fundamental aspects, to the point of its being indistinguishable as an independent entity from either the presence of food or the nurturing presence of the archetype of the mother-figure. As the kitchen is inseparable from the female head of household and the food which she prepares (or, rather, is expected to prepare), so is the collectively placed value on women and food inseparable from the design of the domestic kitchen; its architectural and ornamental treatments, applied usage of technology and relationships to other domestic spaces are all telling of social and spatial hierarchies within the household. The kitchen space is necessarily described by food and both are necessarily described by the presence that activates them – all three are implicated in a trichotomy in which each implies and influences the others. This study narrates the critical intersections between patterns in residential settlement, trends in food culture and domestic labour practices in North America, as influenced by the structural forces that were institutionalized in the narrative of the American Dream. While standards for normative American living, as read through the domestic kitchens occupied by the majority of the population, have changed since the 1950s, there remains a structural nostalgia for the American Dream developed in and for the specific condition of the postwar suburbs. This nostalgia in its intersection with contemporary kitchen spaces, domestic labour practices and food culture constructs them to be fundamentally at odds with one another and the premise of residing in dense urban spaces needlessly difficult.



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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Sclar, Elliott
Woodward, Douglas
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
October 22, 2015