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Ergonomics in the Postwar Home: Collaborations between Cornell’s College of Home Economics and Center for Housing and Environmental Studies

Thursday, April 16, 2015 at 4:30pm

Mann Library, 102
Cornell University Mann Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

In architecture and design, the postwar period in America saw the rise of a new phenomenon: ergonomics research. The primary aim of ergonomics was to improve human environments by studying a wide range of factors that influenced use. These broad-ranging and ambitious studies, which covered everything from anatomical to psychological factors, could only be realized by bringing together large multidisciplinary research teams, including engineers, architects, planners, medics, engineers, home economists, and psychologists.

This was a radical moment in the design sciences and nowhere was this multidisciplinary and user-centered mode of working embraced with more enthusiasm than Cornell University. Two projects exemplify the ergonomic turn: The Cornell Kitchen (1947-1953) and The Bathroom (1958-1965), both directed by Glenn H. Beyer from the Center for Housing and Environmental Studies, and supported by the expertise of Cornell’s Agricultural Experiment Station and the College of Home Economics.

Join us for a lecture by Barbara Penner, the 2014 Dean's Fellowship recipient in the History of Home Economics and Human Nutrition in the College of Human Ecology. Her talk will focus on the applied techniques that were deployed to investigate space, human use and behavior in The Bathroom and The Cornell Kitchen, and the broader ergonomic turn in postwar design culture – a culture which in its attentiveness to non-standard users (women, children, and the elderly) remains relevant today.

Refreshments served.

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Event Type



Cornell Human Ecology, Cornell University Library, Mann Library, Sustainability


che, history, home economics, Cornell University Library, Mann Library, CUL, human ecology, ergonomics



Free and open to all

Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Eveline Ferretti

Contact Phone

(607) 255-5406


Barbara Penner, 2014 Dean's Fellowship recipient, History of Home Economics

Speaker Affiliation

College of Human Ecology

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