Where Should Kitchens Go?

With more people working full-time today compared to the past, many wish to minimize the time spent on household chores while building their careers. In this context, do we still need to cling to the idea of preparing our own meals daily? Among our clients, there are many who prefer simpler, less functional kitchens. Some even specify that they do not require their wives to cook, opting for minimal kitchen setups.

Let’s look at Taiwan, where the dining-out culture thrives. It’s not unusual for people to eat all three meals out. Dining out is affordable, so few singles cook at home, and many of their apartments lack kitchens. Furthermore, the notion that cooking is a parental duty is not widely accepted in Taiwan. With many dual-income families, it’s common for meals to be either takeout or prepared in bulk by grandparents. It’s unclear whether the habit of full-time employment or the norm of casual dining emerged first, but these two factors have synergized well to create a culture where “relying on others for meals is perfectly acceptable.” Although the traditional view that meals should be home-cooked still prevails in Japan, Taiwan’s example of minimal kitchen reliance could be a viable model for modern Japanese workers who prefer dining out.

Today, those overwhelmed by work often settle their meals through dining out or delivery, similar to the singles in Taiwan, without demanding multifunctional kitchens. The less frequent need for cooking justifies simpler and less-equipped kitchens. However, kitchen manufacturers seem to not fully grasp this trend, and the variety of kitchens with only essential functions remains limited.

This trend is not limited to singles but is also evident in families with children. Tasks such as meal preparation and childcare are increasingly being outsourced. Gradually, the idea that all domestic tasks must be handled internally is shifting. This change necessitates a societal update in thinking, ensuring that services typically reserved for the privileged few, like paid domestic help, become more universally accessible.

For instance, the concern about nutrition in dining out is prominent. Addressing nutritional needs is challenging whether dining out or cooking at home. The societal ideal of consuming a variety of vegetables daily is a tall order for anyone. Nutritionists and culinary experts exist because devising a balanced diet is complex. Outsourcing what was traditionally managed within the household could significantly aid many.

The Taiwanese example and nutritional considerations suggest that we need to rethink the traditional roles of cooking and eating at home. The gradual acceptance of outsourcing domestic chores like meal preparation has begun to forge a link between households and urban life. By considering meals in the context of city-wide networks, we can challenge fixed notions and make cities more livable for everyone.

Considering nutrition city-wide could also reduce the burden of cooking. Women, who often outlive their husbands, can find themselves isolated and unable to enjoy meals alone. Child-friendly cafeterias and community dining initiatives can help prevent such issues by fostering networks through communal eating experiences.

As architects and urban developers, it’s crucial to consider how meals for children and the elderly can be provided within the community. While child-friendly dining spots exist, more accessible community-engaging cafes and restaurants are needed.

Supermarkets and convenience stores play a crucial role in our diets, but they lack a social element. While the trend towards minimal kitchens aims to save time and embrace dining out, the connection between food and social interaction is inseparable. Effective solutions may not necessarily involve kitchen robots in elderly homes but could integrate meal provision in medical facilities as a preventative measure.

In the near future, kitchens might evolve from household fixtures to key elements in new community structures. I look forward to seeing how kitchens will adapt in this upcoming era.

Chiaki architect and associates

Interior architect