Swiss designer Alfredo Häberli is developing a future kitchen entitled ‘Sense & Sensuality’ for the LivingKitchen 2019 trade fair in Cologne. As the central space in a holistic living environment, Häberli explains that even in the future, the kitchen will continue to be an important social connection point. Visitors to the trade fair will be able to experience the kitchen – some aspects of which are very forward-looking indeed – in augmented reality. In this interview with the star designer, who was born in Argentina, he tells us why the kitchen is such an important part of our domestic culture and gives some tips about factors that should be considered in future kitchen concepts.
It was of course an honour to be asked to do this for LivingKitchen. It also took me back to my childhood because I grew up in the hotel and restaurant business and I spent more time in the kitchen than in the living room. So I am sort of going back to the past to look ahead at the future – I find it very exciting.
I am constantly working on the development of this future kitchen. As I do, I am consciously trying to introduce a certain degree of abstraction because the times in which we live are progressing incredibly quickly. This kitchen scenario is set in the near future.
For me, the kitchen is the soul of the home. It is the fire that everyone sits around. So it has some extremely important social aspects. And then there’s the idea of degrowth – reducing growth and stripping things back to the really important stuff. That will also be a key topic. We’re seeing the initial impacts of this at the moment, in various parts of the automobile industry and the mobility sector, especially in connection with the sharing economy. Shared space, shared activities and shared mobility, for example, will be very important. And I think this will have an impact on kitchens, too.
That would be a move away from the self-centredness that permeates so many areas of design... Do you think this could lead to the devaluation or revaluation of design and the function of design?
I am convinced that design will always play an important role. But I also think that talking about design is unnecessary these days because it’s part of a process. There is no longer such a strong focus on aesthetics and making things more beautiful. Instead, design is more of an attitude – an attitude that is growing increasingly strong and significant.
I believe that we will need to re-design our lives. This development has gathered a lot of momentum, I can see it already with my children. And I’m not so much talking about the aesthetic aspects. It’s about character. Design is increasingly becoming about the attitude that you adopt.
In recent years, kitchen design has mainly focused on the overall aesthetics – on storing things out of sight and on integrating appliances. As is the case with bathrooms, these are very complex design requirements. This means the progress of current developments is dampened because they need to prevail against a relatively rigid design canon. But in this area, there is now a great deal of openness to change. This is partly due to new technologies, which enable designers to suddenly make suggestions that are entirely new.
Kitchens have changed dramatically in the last few decades. They have unfolded into other living spaces and spatial arrangements. Again, there are similarities to bathrooms here. There is also a tendency to conceptualise the kitchen as a protected area. The main thing here is that you feel safe and comfortable in the space where you cook, serve and eat food. At the same time, you have the midweek kitchen and the weekend kitchen, both of which perform very different functions! At the weekend, you have more time and you put more thought into the way you serve and eat food – in a social setting with family or friends. The approach taken during the week is very different. Another thing is that in the future, there will be an even starker tension between analogue and digital in the kitchen.
The kitchen proves the point that the truly important things in life have longevity. For me, the home is pretty much the best example of this. In fact, getting food is the most primal of our human impulses. In this respect, we’re not so very different from animals. Just like them, we ask ourselves, “When will I get food? How will I get food? What kind of food will I get?” It is vitally important. Essential. Even for that reason alone, I think the kitchen is – and will continue to be – a core domestic space.
I have always seen the kitchen as a point of connection. That’s why I say that the kitchen is the soul of the home. I also associate the dining table with the kitchen. Even back when I was studying, we had the best ideas and made the best models when we were sat at the kitchen table. You don’t even need to have a big table – you can draw a sketch or fashion a model on the simplest, smallest kitchen table. The same table is used for mealtimes, games and homework. For me, kitchens and kitchen tables are very closely linked. The kitchen is a central place and an anchor in the home – and that isn’t going to change.
We spend enough time alone with our smart communication devices. People crave interaction with other people. We need to talk, to be human. It’s important to acknowledge that we are not solitary creatures. Even if our media channels are fuelling an increase in individualisation. I believe that we humans are not meant to be alone. So it is not something that my future kitchen will encourage.
The message I would like to convey to them is that there is no hurry – there is time.
With the help of industry partners Arwa, Samsung, Schott Ceran and Petersen Tegl, visitors will be able to experience the kitchen and a variety of kitchen appliances that Alfredo Häberli has designed as part of his future scenario – not just in the real world but in a virtual, augmented-reality setting too. Manufacturers such as Alias, Astep, Atelier Pfister, Baltensweiler, Flos and New Tendency are also providing a selection of additional products for the installation.