Are kitchen-less houses the way of the future?

Lisa Portolan
Thu 01 Jun

“Millennials don’t cook – so we need to start thinking about creating homes without kitchens.”

Said an architect. Is this the case? Have millennials consumed one too many smashed avocado enriched breakfasts at the latest hang-out and decided that their cooking skills aren’t up to scratch? Were they simply never taught to cook by their generation x parents?

Or is this a “chicken and the egg” scenario? For example - do millennials not know how to cook, or have architects decided that kitchens aren’t relevant for millennials? It’s an interesting case of architecture versus behavioural studies.

Research indicates millennials typically don’t spend time on meal preparation, make impromptu meal decisions and are less likely to have a well-stocked pantry. Does this attitude influence the size or existence of the kitchen? Gioia Gianniotis, local architect for the ACT and Riverina (GPG architecture and Design) indicated that there is a growing school of thought that kitchens can perhaps become more centralised spaces that are part of shared communal facilities.

Long has there been a dichotomy between behavioural studies and architecture. Vitruvius a philosopher in the first century recognised that architecture was influenced by many forces, “utilitas, firmitas, and venustas” or human behaviour, technology and behaviour, and vice versa. Architecture and design decides what’s practical, cutting edge, and beautiful.  

Travis Kalanick, one of the Uber founders, predicted that in 2030 garages would no longer exist. He indicated there would be no reason for people to own cars anymore given the share-economy would make alternate forms of travel ubiquitous. Another example, and a vision of the future.

With Canberra undergoing a record amount of construction in all of its urban centres and surrounds, we wonder what will a new Canberra look like in 20 years and how this will change not only the urban design but the way we interact with each other, our lifestyle and behaviours?

In 1966, a British planner called Maurice Broady came up with a new term for the architectural lexicon: architectural determinism. This was to describe the practice of asserting that design solutions would change behaviour in a predictable and positive way. Broady comes from a long list of architects who have made similar assertions. Leon Battista Alberti (Italian Renaissance-era architect) indicated in the 1400s that classical forms would compel aggressive invaders to put down their arms. From Le Corbusier (Swiss-born French architect) to Frank Lloyd Wright (US) – lofty thoughts of how designs influence the people abound.

… not to mention the millennials and their kitchens (or lack thereof).

So back to the nation’s capital, Canberra, so meticulously designed by Walter Burley Griffin in 1911. Burley Griffin was heavily influenced by “city beautiful” and “garden city” movements, dominant design trends in the late 19th century and early 20th century. A strong classical influence permeated his designs of Canberra. Today a myriad of architects, designers and engineers work on his initial roadmap, taking Canberra from Australia’s sleepy national capital to a hive of creative activity.

Some of the bigger names which have graced and developed Canberra’s design story include GEOCON. With a number of ambitious projects including Republic (Belconnen), Midnight (Braddon), Infinity (Gungahlin), Southport (Tuggeranong) and Wayfarer (Belconnen), Geocon is changing the way Canberra looks.

Ronan Moss, from Cox Architecture indicated, “Wayfarer evokes a style of living that we haven’t experienced yet.”

And while there might still be kitchen’s in the apartments constructed by Geocon, they push the boundaries of urban design by creating spaces which are all inclusive - precincts that include gardens, amphitheatres, mixed use-commercial spaces for retail and enterprise start-ups, libraries and harvest markets. Republic architect, David Sutherland describes it as, “A fascinating weave of interconnecting spaces.”

It’s no surprise that architecture shapes the way we think and feel – we live the majority of our lives within buildings. This extends to the colours we paint our walls with, and the furniture we interlace into these spaces.  Many studies have looked into how space influences cognition, for example Christian Jarrett highlights a new study on curved versus rectilinear furniture. The study was a downer for those who are fans of modernism, furniture defined by straight edges was rated as far less appealing and approachable. Colours can have similar impacts and layouts.

Winston Churchill once said (1924, addressing the English Architectural Association), “There is no doubt whatever about the influence of architecture and structure upon human character and action. We make our buildings and afterwards they make us.”

The relationship between architecture and design and behaviour is an interesting one. On the verge of pioneering into a bold and dynamic Canberra – it’s important to consider how these spaces, buildings will impact our lives.

Personally, I’d like to keep my kitchen.