October 16, 2013

The closer to the body..-1

Domestic normativity

The focus in Elizabeth Dillers ”Bad press” deals with matters of the private and public, what is considered “proper”, with the body and its social aspects as the point of departure. Diller explains how the view on the body, at the end of the nineteen century, transforms into being understood as an extension of the factory, as efficient and rational man-power. “Scientific management, or Taylorism, sought to rationalize and standardize the motions of this body, harnessing its dynamic energy and converting it to efficient labor power.” (Diller, Bad Press, p. 77).

These ideas also spread into the domestic sphere, involving the labor performed within the house, housework, and the man-power that where expected to execute this work, the house wife. A clean, hygienic home, rationally designed for efficient housework, also had a moral resonance with social consequences.

Diller continues to discuss the displacement of the understanding of housework, as less gendered, and today connected to multitasking or leisure.

She also shows the connection between social codes and social belongings, and chores within the house, through a number of examples of instructions on how to iron a shirt. The folds and creases create a pattern that says something about the wearer’s status, at the same time as the action of ironing supports the industry of production.

The search for the modern “standard”, the ultimate and most rational way, has had vast effects on domestic design since after the Second World War. It is no coincidence that the Neuferts’ “Architects’ Data” takes a domestic focus at this time. But despite the ambition of finding the general formula, the recommendations includes a lot of concealed ideas of who the user is and how a procedure is executed.

It seems as if design as a carrier or producer of norms is more evident the closer to the body it comes. The kitchen is one of the most revealing spaces in terms of who a design is meant for and how it shows in the built environment. No one questions the standard height of the kitchen counter for instance, even though 90 cm obviously is too short for many of today’s users. The idea of cooking as a procedure that should be performed by one person within the shortest time possible, is materialized in the popular model of the “parallel kitchen”. But today, when taking time to cook and socialize is a sign of social status (time is money) the layout of the kitchen is bigger, more lavished and has a more central position within the layout of the dwelling.

Reading: Elizabeth Diller, “Bad Press” in Francesca Hughes, ed. The Architect reconstructing her Practice, Cambridge, MA MIT Press, 1996, p. 74-95.

Johanna Nenander

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: