Arts & Culture

Mess with the Crazy Kitchen? No way!

It’s an experience that sticks with you — for better or for worse. Enter the Crazy Kitchen inside the Canada Science and Technology Museum, and you’re immediately drawn back to another era by the gingham curtains, the checkerboard flooring, and a farmhouse sink in a space untarnished by trendy updates.

There’s sweet comfort for those old enough to recall a time coming home to a kitchen like this. That feeling is quickly overshadowed by the physical delusion.

It’s not long before you start to feel woozy and maybe even nauseous in the angular space. The squares and lines on the drapes and walls, combined with the slight angle of the floor, give you the wobbles. Your eyes tell you one thing, and your inner ear tells you another. This discombobulation is, in fact, the whole point of the exhibit and has been since its inception in 1967.

The Crazy Kitchen transports visitors back in time — and messes with their perception of space. Photo courtesy Canada Science and Technology Museum

“The original designers wanted visitors to experience what happens when we throw off the senses and distort observations,” says curator David Pantalony. “This is a fundamental question of science and also a fun thing to do in a science museum.”

Indeed, this beloved gem of the museum is one of the few things that remain after a massive two-year $80-million renovation. When the museum consulted its renewal panel — a group of 800 people from all over Canada — curators were told, emphatically, that they should under no circumstances mess with the Crazy Kitchen. Panellists wanted to be sure they could share the experience with their children and grandchildren.

The exterior of the Crazy Kitchen received a revamp, but otherwise the exhibit remains largely unchanged. Photo courtesy of Canada Science and Technology Museum

The enduring appeal says something about the museology of the Crazy Kitchen. Some exhibits are easy to stumble through without really absorbing the message. You can’t get away with that inside the Crazy Kitchen. At the risk of overanalyzing, one might say that going into that kitchen allows us to rediscover ourselves through some sense of immersion and distortion.

Originally located in the physics and measurement section, surrounded by 1960s-era pop-psychology illusions, the Crazy Kitchen can now be found within the Science and Medicine Gallery, surrounded by new multi-sensory perception-shifting illusions, including a face-flip experience where visitors become the subject of the illusion.