Monday, October 10, 2005

Prime Sources 3

Sam Clark designs efficient, ergonomic and ecological kitchens that happen to be a joy to cook in and are beautiful.
Back in 1985, he wrote a book called the Motion Minded Kitchen (Alas no longer in print) as a result of the time he spent researching the history of kitchen design and in particular the work of the Gilbreaths. Frank explored ways to make men's work better -- e.g. his bricklayer's scaffold which kept the supply of bricks, mortar and tools all on the same level as the current work, thus eliminating bending and stooping. Together they studied many industrial situations to improve the work by reducing the worker's effort and strain. After Frank's death, Lilian turned to the home and 'women's work'. She induced GE to put shelves in refrigerator doors. Her time and motion studies of various projects led to the discovery of the kitchen triangle, or the best layout of refrigerator to stove to sink, which is now a cliche. She developed ideas about storage at point of first use which make mixing and chopping so much easier. She defined the essential work centers for an efficient kitchen as:
  1. Cleanup or sink center
  2. Cooking or stove center
  3. Mix center
And she pointed out the obvious that, people coming in all sizes and different chores demanding different efforts, therefore counters should be at differing heights to suit the cook who uses them and the task performed. To get a quick idea of what this means stand up straight and crook your elbow. Have somebody measure the distance from your elbow to the floor. Compare that height to your counters: how much lower are they?
A counter where you serve food, stack dishes or make sandwiches, is best if it is 3" less than that measurement. But the surface where you mix batter, knead bread, or chop nuts, needs to be 6 to 7 inches lower to allow the proper use of force required and room for the long handles of the tools. A sink rim where dishes are done or fresh vegetables are prepared is only 2 to 3 inches lower because the actual working level is inside the sink, nearer the bottom of the sink than the rim. The cooking surface of a range for most activities is fine at 3" less. But if you use big stock pots, or stir fry, using long handled tools, the height is better between 6" and 7" below your elbow. The oven's fully opened door is best between 1" and 7" sub elbow. Think of moving a twenty pound turkey from oven to counter: how nice not to bend!
"Work surface TOO HIGH ... causes arm and shoulder ache"
"Work surface TOO LOW ... causes back and neck ache"
(Motion Minded Kitchen, Clark, pg 42)
Just this short recital of the cook's requirements shows how distant most kitchen's are from good design. Even the ones that win design awards.
Besides the information about the Gilbreaths, Mr. Clark also provides a very clear and concise account of the design process. Given some facility with tools -- or a willingness to learn i.e.: make mistakes and try again -- most people are able to use his methods to achieve a better kitchen than the builders provided. I have done so and I miss it in evey kitchen since.
Courtesy of Library Thing:
The Motion-Minded Kitchen: Step-By-Step Procedures for Designing and Building the Kitchen You Want With the Space and Money You Have by Sam Clark (Houghton Mifflin (T), 1983), paperback

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