KITCHEN and its shifting position

Post 381 – by Gautam Shah 



Kitchen as a space module, over the years, has been shifting around the dwelling. The shifts have occurred due to technological changes inside and outside the kitchen. These compulsive changes, have altered the nature of all other units of dwelling, except the bedroom. The interrelationships between the units of dwellings have been reset many times. Some new ones have become evident, whereas others have separated, merged with others, or just perished.

x Old Stone House kitchen

The kitchen is an intensive activity area, and so in comparison to the entire house, its dependence on outside resources is more acute. The perimeter of the kitchen thus becomes the prime location of touching the outside connections. A kitchen can never be a centric place in the dwelling, though a hearth was such a facility. The outside connections have occurred due to supplies of fuels, commodities and water, disposal of effluents and other wastes, ventilation for replacement of air and moisture, and view out as a relief from long duration occupation.

Werdenberg._Schlangenhaus._Ground_floor._Kitchen_-_010A ‘Kitchen’ consists Four main zones, storing, food processing area, cooking zone, and dining area. There could be other smaller identities such as fuel storage, water storage and kitchen utensils cleaning, laundry area, bathing area (in some ages and cultures), servants’ area (sleeping-resting). All these could be within an architectural space or in segmented form. The kitchen has been grounded or placed as a dungeon. In urban centers, this arrangement has not been possible in multi floored dwellings. Kitchens in Roman apartments on upper floors (such as on third or fourth floors) were not workable. Here the water, fuel and commodities supplies were difficult and disposal of solid waste more problematic. Romans relied more for foods on bakeries located at ground floors and for bathing used public toilets. The Parisian apartment or London raw house kitchens opened to backyards, not a place worthy to open out, through a window or door. In both types of cases, supplies were difficult to manage.

Roman Kitchen

Fuel and water supplies due to the bulk, and effluents and solid wastes have been irritants for kitchen arrangements. Every technical innovation, such as compact and high efficiency fuels, piped supply of water, drainage system, chimneys, glazed windows, has been readily accepted.


The dining, wherever possible, was first to be separated from the smoke-odour filled and soot-covered kitchen. The kitchen-dining could stay apart wherever servants were available and affordable, or had to be adjunct spaces. Similarly cloth and utensils washing became adjunct spaces. Bathing, which was part of the kitchen in colder climates, moved away.

Villa Rustica Ahrweiler Küche der Mansion

Villa Rustica Ahrweiler Küche der Mansion


A kitchen gradually became increasingly dependent on the outside world as supplies became diverse and more frequent. Urban kitchens depended on fresh and day to day supplies that were partly processed. These reduced the size of food processing area, wastes volume, fuel requirements, manpower needs and time involved in cooking. With smaller spatial requirements or more attuned space arrangement, the kitchen became a place to participate with a maid then delegate it to the maid. This also resulted in better recipes (rational processes) and quality of food.


The participation in cooking and related processes in a cleaner kitchen brought back the dining (at least breakfast, quick tea) to the kitchen. Participation by various members of family has seen many different trends. The modern age has offered outside work opportunities to women, resulting in much more intense sharing of the kitchen related responsibilities by other family members. The trend has been supported by kitchen design, gadgets, feeder and other services, pre-processed foods, and most importantly the fast food joints restaurants, and work place catering.




Post 362 – by Gautam Shah


Kitchen and Dining adjacency

Kitchen and Dining adjacency

Cooking and Dining, have been conjunct areas. Dining is intimately related to the food preparation activity. Dining area has been shifting close and away from cooking area. The reasons are due to environmental, ethnic, social, religious, organizational and technological reasons. Cooking and dining, originally flourished, in the same space segment; separated in the middle ages, and once again merged during the last century. The dining, however, is now poised to supersede the kitchen or cooking. Dining itself may become a food ‘preparation’ area.

Modern Design Residential Counter Kitchen Interior

The Kitchen-dining, have had varied proximity mainly due to the environmental factors. Cooking areas in all climate zones were untidy and uncomfortable due to heat, smoke, and soot, all due to poor quality fuels. To compound these odours of food preparation and garbage, were not easily manageable. In tropics it was possible to prepare food in open or semi-open spaces, but in colder climates environmental control was dependent on chimneys or roof holes. Natural illumination was another concern in absence of glazed openings. Cooking and dining, still remained adjunct to each other in all climate zones. In smaller dwellings, both remained in the same space, but in large mansions the retinue of servants mediated the separation.


Johann Heinrich Sturmer Kochin Wikipedia image

The dining area has had many different forms, depending on the nature of food, schedules, moods, companionship, sex, age and social standing of the diners, ambiance of space, and other engagements. Dining consists of morning tea, breakfast, lunch, brunch, afternoon tea and snacks, supper or evening meals, or late night caps. These are taken in different sections of the house. The settings for food consumption ranges from a stiff dining table to an informal verandah, nurseries, terraces, home garden, to very intimate one in bed.

Small kitchen

Small kitchen

Small houses due to space restraints may combine food preparation, cooking and dining to same section of the space and share the amenities. Urban families stay in smaller houses where dining is more of the functional need without any scope for social interaction. The busy life styles, (working husband and wife, other adults) does not permit extensive cooking at home, or have frequent dinner guests. A bar platform, once an intervening element between the kitchen and dining or the extension of a pantry, meant for brunch and fast-track meal; now began to replace the formal dining space and table. The functional bar like a platform with tall stools, allows one to have a quick-bite in a standing or semi-siting position. Such small dwellings and single person units do away with the formal dining table or a designated space.

Kitchen and dining

Kitchen store room

Indian Kitchen Pantry + Store Room

The kitchen and dining were once separated through a pantry. The pantry and store rooms began to be useless for several reasons, 24×7 hours assured supplies, smaller size of family and less frequent partying at home. The kitchen-dining also began to be connected through a door, often double leaf glass doors. The kitchen-dining connection was further dilated with removal of the mid-barriers. An exclusive kitchen conceded the living room (family room) to the drawing room, but a living room, well integrated with the kitchen, allowed the drawing room to exist on its own -a secluded space.

Kitchen – Dining – Family room –as one space

Dining room is merging into the kitchen for other reasons. For husband and wife as a working couple find the combined kitchen and dining with better chance of communication, for being together, and enjoy the soap operas.

Kitchen - Dining connection --double leaf glass doors

Kitchen – Dining connection –double leaf glass doors

Food preparation cooking, serving, and dining, were all well delineated in terms of the purpose, place and space. But these have been changing. Modern homes subsist on pre-cooked, preserved, ready packaged foods. These require warming in a microwave and the serviettes, dishes, bowls, tableware, are disposable. The working person has lunch at the workplace, and dinner in a restaurant. The kitchen and dining are deprived of their core functions.


171115-F-AL359-9996 - rotator


FOOD PREPARATION SYSTEMS – VI -Kitchen Design by Fires

Post 249 – by Gautam Shah 


Fires have literally fired the Kitchens. Along with the fire kitchens have been modified for the size, shape, configuration, siting of amenities, location within the dwelling, connections to the estate, entrance and other sections of the residence, linkage to the services, and the storage systems. At another level fire has affected cooking processes, tools and utensils, ingredients and condiments, schedules and duration of cooking activities. The energy resources or fuels have continuously evolved, reducing the labour required for the kitchen related processes. Simplified fire has been a great leveller for kitchens in dwellings of all social and economic statuses. The necessity of cooking, and for that reason the need for fire (or energy), has decreased due to several reasons, such as ready to use supplies, reduced home-based eating and smaller family sizes.


The Fire in the kitchen has become efficient at several levels, its handling methods, thermal productivity and quality of effluents. The fuel supplies are more assured and continuous. New techniques of heat or energy sources such as solar, electric and microwaves are replacing the age old fuel combustion methods.

Fuels for Cooking

The cooking fire with its illumination (and warmth in many seasons) was a fear alleviating element on dark and fearful nights. It kept predators and insects away. Even a primitive age family knew it was a wastage of fuel. Oil lamps spared lots of fuel for cooking and warming. Another attempt to save fuel was to redefine the hearth from open fire to with three-sided enclosure. Direct fire roasting or barbecue, began to replace stewing or juicy cooking on indirect low fires. Agriculture provided grains, which in whole or crushed form required different methods of cooking heat. Starch foods required very little heat for cooking.

Casa_do_OuteiroThe sources of fuel were mainly wood cut from trees, twigs and heavier stemmed grasses. Liquids like oils, lard and tallow were used for lighting lamps and for sustaining the fires. Fuel collection was need-based collection activity, but with forests moving away from settlements, it became a seasonal source. Substantial time, effort and space were devoted to manage the fuel resources.


Built hearth fire is superior to open fire, but requires converted fuels like chopped wood, broken twigs, animals’ excreta cake, briquetted coals, animal tallow and fish oils. Heat efficiency of converted fuels is slightly better, but often times the combustion poor and emissions annoying. Smokeless fire was a necessity and has taken a long time to arrive. It was first achieved in a closed chamber hearth, where gasification of fuels at a very high temperature achieved complete combustion. The raised internal temperatures of the burning chamber require better insulation, higher air input, and equally efficient ventilation. The process was perfected only during the Industrial revolution, with cast Iron stoves.



It was only in the 17 and 18th C AD. that low emission and heat efficient charcoal and briquetted mineral coals were available and replaced the firewood. Charcoal was a preferred fuel, due to its compact form and high heat efficiency. It made the firing section in the closed chamber hearth very small, allowing its better insulated design. Different forms of heat application, direct-radiant, reflected, etc. became part of the cooking art. Mineral coals that began to replace charcoals only enhanced the pollution due to presence of sulphur. Coals, however, brought about many changes in storage needs, form of cooking apparatuses and house fireplaces. Houses now needed chimneys.

Cast Iron composite stove



Post 223 – by Gautam Shah



Fire has been difficult to initiate, maintain, contain, handle and extinguish. A secure fire helps the process of domestication, just as sharing of food with the family was beginning of a home. Fire is a hazard but if controlled can provide warmth, light and security. It needs to be shielded from rain and wind. Fire is a change causing element in every aspect of living.

Hearth in Pompei

Hearth in Pompeii Wikipedia Image by Jebulon

Fire can be sustained mainly with a built form and supply of combustible materials. Fire, however needs several handling technologies, such as:

  • Fuel sizing, storage and charging,
  • Ignition,
  • Aeration methods,
  • Holding tools,
  • Shielding and Insulation,
  • Heat distribution,
  • Emissions, odours and solid residues,
  • Fire enclosures like hearths,
  • Pots and vessels, supports,
  • Fire dousing tools.


Gold Smelting Egypt

Gold Smelting Egypt

Collection of combustible materials was volumetrically very large, and sometimes even more difficult then procuring the foods. Fire fuels needed size reduction for transport, and storage for an entire season. A housed fire, however, fostered many other activities besides cooking. It was used for illumination, warmth, farm, craft and industrial conversion processes. Many technological innovations were supported by such a large scale need for fire. The main thrust areas were efficient fuels and effective ways of using them. Fuels must be dry, compact, easy to size and store, smoke free and with high thermal efficiency. Effective ways of handling fire included using fire for heat conduction, convection, radiation, latent heat of materials and the residual heat in emissions.

Wall Hearth

Open fires were dangerous and problematic, but men could not do without it. The first efficiency was achieved by arranging the fire inside a walled chamber, the hearth. A hearth allowed controlled rate of combustion, protection from random sparks and limited effects of radiation. The hearth was multi-purpose entity, and allowed use of converted fuels like chopped wood, broken twigs, animals’ excreta cakes, briquetted coals, and liquid fuels like lard, tallow and oils. These fuels had smaller mass, better storage system, and greater heat efficiency.

Free Hearth

Free Hearth

Smoke and soot were problems that were tackled by locating the hearth in appropriate place. Many fire-related lessons were learnt from craft and industrial processes like pottery firing, metal smelting, shaping and forging, farm produce dehydration and baking, sintering of minerals, lamps for illumination, etc. Metal smelting taught how to achieve high temperatures, whereas dehydration and smoking (of meats) helped on how to maintain low temperatures for longer period. First attempts to reduce the temperature involved distancing the pot or food from fire. Hearth design micro improvisations (learnt from ceramics firing) taught how to control air supply to the fire.

1 6396200661_bb475bcf3e

The local fuels, their quality and quantity, both affected the nature of food recipes. Different forms of direct-radiant, and indirect-reflected, heat applications created processes of simmering, stewing, boiling, smoking, charring, barbecuing, baking, roasting, etc. The hearths began to take different forms depending on the type of fuel available.

Wall Hearth with various forms of Heat input

Wall Hearth with various forms of Heat input

In colder climates the hearth was a warming fireplace. It became part of an alcove or a niche in the wall. The hearths were bulky to retain heat within the mass of body and use their delayed throw back of heat (re-radiation). Cooking procedures were long lasting (Stew-preparations), and dining close to the hearth. In warmer climates hearths were a source of heat and discomfort. Hearths as a result are placed in the corner of a room or outside of it. Hearths are thin bodied and to allow faster cooling after cooking. Cooking procedures involving use of fires are short and requiring lesser intervention. All non fire cooking procedures are conducted elsewhere, away from the hearth. Food preparation activities occur in other parts of the dwelling.







Post 216 – by Gautam Shah


Hearth and Kitchen




Hearth in the Kitchen has been the most important entity of kitchen formation. All functions of kitchen, such as the food preparation, cooking, consumption, arranging water, fuel and other resources, smoke, effluents, and solid waste management, cleaning (of foods and vessels), washing (laundry), bathing (family members and staff), storage systems, and food consumption must be resolved for the convenience of hearth usage.

Space Station foods



Hearth form, size and location inside or outside the dwelling enclosure are decided by climate and social taboos. Hearth and its fuel, together determined the time spent for cooking, proximity of dining, nature of cooking, and social interactions within the family. Some strong dilemmas have always existed ‘as to what could and should remain with the hearth, and what must be placed away from it or outside the kitchen’

Caboose_(ship_stove)Kitchen is a place where means and methods continuously evolve. Activities of kitchen are strongly affected quality of fuel, foods and condiments available, urbanization, mobility of family (migrant, nomadic, ethnic), climate (seasons’ cycles), geography and heritage. Foreign influences such as new condiments, foods, vegetables, and recipes affect the kitchen form very readily. Vanquished and victorious civilizations, both are affected, if not by each others’ culture, and surely by foods and cooking. Societies that were geographically secluded, or not in war, stayed frozen in the time section, but with maturing their ethnicity.

Indonesian_brick_stoveWhen new foods arrive, new kitchen planning ideology also sets in. The stew in the cauldron on fire place like hearths, and open fire baked breads; were replaced with frying pans and closed chamber baking. This change also entailed platform-based cooking. Sink attached or connected with the platform and its drainage facility encouraged piped plumbing. The heat, smoke and soot of a hearth were vented through stacks or properly sited and adequately sized windows. The bathing tub of the family went out of the kitchen, into a separate chamber, called bathroom or toilet. Openly stacked stores were chambered into specific rooms.

Peasant_Woman_Cooking_by_a_FireplaceIn the middle ages, urban centers like Venice, London, Paris, etc. redefined dwellings emerged for urban family depending on urban supply system. Many of these urban dwellings were shared structures and located away from the ground (upper floor houses). A major change came with the charcoal and mineral coal replacing the wood. The new fuels were less massive, and had better heat output. The emissions were lesser and manageable. The kitchen now became exclusively a food preparation zone. It remained women’s domain. She spent substantial part of time overlooking cooking, but in the intermittent period busied herself with crafts.Woodcut_kitchenJean-François_Millet_(II)_005



Post 215 ⇒   by Gautam Shah 


Kitchen and evolution of its Facilities


The kitchen related storage systems, their spread and mass in a dwelling are determined by the routine climate, cycles of seasons, kinship within the community, degree of urbanization and industrialization in the society. It is a tradition borne out of wisdom and accumulated experiences. ‘An efficient storage system is ingrained in the family lifestyle, and is a heritage of a community.’


Storage management has been a family vocation as much as a community concern. Communities bound by ethnic affinity ensure continuous supplies for all their members. Kitchens, sustain well, if supplies of food, water and fuel, are available at the doorstep. The concern for supplies is more pronounced in extreme climates, difficult terrains and lonely locations. The place of cooking is environmentally too hostile for storage of food stuffs, and so raw foods are stored elsewhere in the house. Food preparation is rarely dimensionally small and spatially insignificant activity. Food preparation rather then cooking requires more space. With assured supplies the food preparation processes become less bothersome. Romans were staying in multi-story (a 4-5 floor high) apartment like buildings. It was difficult to carry water, fuel and other supplies to upper floors, so relied on the ground floor bakers. The food preparation zone becomes omnipresent in the dwelling due to the spread of storage utilities. A moderate climate zone offers multi season replenishments, obviating the need for large volume storage. In hot arid climates, the house appears to be made of only storage utilities, whereas the cooking looks like physically a very small time and space activity.


Industrialized and urban localities have the advantage of supplies being delivered in ‘nearly ready to cook’ form and without much delay. Storage needs of an urban house are very much smaller.

DCF 1.0

Mansions of the rich had kitchen storage systems of very large variety and volume, but spread at several locations. Cooking vessels were large sized and shaped to meet needs of fancy recipes. The kitchen had fuel store, water source area, cleaning and washing section, meat rooms, milk and butter section. The staff at kitchen level dined in the kitchen, and required large volume of dishes, bowls, etc. The prepared food was taken to upper floor bedrooms, chambers, dining rooms or coffee rooms, requiring service items such as trays and trolleys. The food was taken to pantry area of the floor, to be rewarmed, reserved in silver or porcelains. The pantry area had many sub sections, such as the silver room, linen room, etc.

Banquet de Charles V

Banquet de Charles V

The lifestyle of rich was naturally emulated by others in the society. The difference was that their houses were not so large. They did not have the capacity to retain an army of food-zone related staff. Often the housewife was required to intervene in the kitchen activities. The involvement of the housewife assured that kitchen was a clean and well-articulated place. Most of the kitchen related storage systems were in the kitchen or in an attached store room.

Task utilities of a kitchen are sited everywhere in the house to take advantage of the varied sensual experiences and comforts, as offered by the house. Certain amenities, like the grinding stone, butter milk churner, flour-mill, vegetable chopper, were fixed to a location, for advantaging the architectural, and other functional attributes of the space. Other task utilities, however, are shifted from place to place on schedules of daily, seasonal or occasional nature, to exploit the environment, climate, illumination, etc. available within and without the precinct of a kitchen.

Wall Hearth

Free Hearth -Chulha



Post 213 – by Gautam Shah



Food preparation has been part human life. Hunting or food gathering, cleaning and apportioning the food, were clan-based activities, but exclusively conducted by men. The clan kinship or arrangement continued for other activities like, grazing the animal herds and harvesting the crops. With all the community management, the dwelling was perhaps a long community house. It sheltered families as hearth-based units. The long house also stored foods, fuels and water.


The cleaning of meat foods and apportioning them was done away from the living areas to keep off smell, filth, vultures, and other carnivorous away. This was the first systematic Food preparation process. The final processing of food into an edible product was a family-based affair. The long community house had partitioned family sections, each of which had its own hearth. Here, the woman further refined the (clan shared) raw food, and reformatted it with own fire.


The fire or the Hearth became the focus of the family identity. Oxford’s dictionary defines focus, originally a Latin word, as a domestic hearth. The hearth was not only the metaphoric focus of the family, but it came to designate the Home.

Hearth -the focus

Hearth -the focus

 The community dwelling assured food Supplies, security and safety. Fire in the hearth provided illumination, warmth and safety against predators. Family centred around the hearth, and also pursued other productive activities like clothing, furnishings, and craft related pursuits. The community dwelling was finite in size, its partitioned families into self-sustaining units. The individual dwelling began to be structured by the family, to suit its own distinctive needs. All food related activities like, storing, processing, preparation and consumption, moved to the single family dwellings.


The food preparation zone of the individualized house had many different forms depending on the technology, climate, and materials. The woman not only reigned over the food preparation zone, but controlled all the happenings in the family, by occupying the most important section of the house.

Fat and Lean kitchens

As Lewis Mumford (City in History P 12) puts it, “security, receptivity, enclosure, nurture -these functions belong to a woman, they take a structural expression in every part of the village, in the house, and the oven, the byre, the bin the cistern, the storage pit, the granary…. are woman writ large. In Egyptian hieroglyphics house or town may stand as symbols for the mother, as if to confirm the similarity of the individual and the collective nurturing function.”

The kitchen in spite of its functional importance and inevitability, was often not the focus of the house, as it was in the primitive community long house. The kitchen was smoke filled, smelly, and very warm area, could be pushed off the centre, but never out of its core importance.

Diego Velazquez An Old Woman Cooking Eggs

Diego Velazquez An Old Woman Cooking Eggs

Food Preparation System consisted of several functional entities. Storage for kitchen and family vocation have been synonymous in terms of modalities and space management. Kitchens, sustain well, if supplies of food, water and fuel, are available at a doorstep and when required. Food processing (cleaning, grinding, chopping, etc.) is another area that is both time and space relevant. Cooking has been a fire related process has its environmental issues. Food consumption, though could be a separate affair in another time-space, remains interconnected with the cooking zone.


Modern Food Preparation Zone