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.

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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 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



Post -by Gautam Shah


Dwellings anywhere and any-time have two inevitable features —a Door and a Hearth. Both offer some sense of protection. The Door offers physical security whereas the hearth offers a metaphysical sense of family. A door denotes a domainthe home, and the hearth focusesthe family.


  • Classical Latin word FOCUS =fireplace, hearth; from uncertain or unknown; perhaps Indo-European base an unverified form bhok=to flame, burn from a source uncertain or unknown; perhaps Armenian bo =flame.
  • An abode with an open door or no door, but with smoke arising from it, is a sign of inhabitation. A house however, with a broken door is an abandoned entity. No one enters a place, with an open door, no door or a broken door, because it is in some ones possession. A person with a door (or gap) has the right of occupation and residence.


In very primitive dwellings a door and the hearth, both were circumstantial -identified by their primal position rather then their physical form. Doors without any physical form have been like skewed entry positions, such as: cliff faces, entwined passages, narrow or low height(crawling) passageways (like igloos of Eskimos), fall-down (pit houses of China) or climb-up (tree houses), etc., Such primal positions have strengthened the functions of doors. For many stone age cultures and in Harappan, Egyptian and Mesopotamia civilizations the ‘door’ was a gap that served the purpose of entry, exit and illumination. The ‘door gap with cover’ additionally provided privacy, security and control of environment.


Long houses had doors at both ends, and were covered with an animal hide to preserve interior warmth. Each long-house contains a number of booths along both sides of the central hallway, separated by wooden containers (akin to modern drawers). Each booth has its own individual hearth and fire. Usually an extended family occupied one long-house, and cooperated in obtaining food, building canoes, and other daily tasks.’ (Long-house Wikipedia).



The hearth has been the focus of the family. A place with fire provided illumination, warmth, protection against wild animals. It is a focus to surround for food, talk, communication and entertainment. Today in every house, the Kitchen -the place of hearth and the Door have a very intense relationship. The person in charge becomes the natural controller of the door -front or backyard door.


Hearth and Family


The first doors were plain gaps with additional facility of cover. A variety of covering materials like, hide, fabrics, woven matins, rubble heaps, sticks, wood logs and planks, metal casts, paper, grass and leaves, and stone slabs were used. These were dumped, heaped, hung or placed strategically. Stripes of hides, vines, ropes, animal guts, sticks, etc., were also used to support the cover materials. Such doors’ covers were assembled as and when required or hung to roll up or push aside.

Harappan streets were straight walled as house entrances were placed in side lanes. Houses had entry gaps from small passages or court yards. Even today in many warm -arid and humid climates, the door remains open for substantial part of day and also night. For security reasons if the opening has to be shut, the Jali or latticed door or a curtain is closed.

Idoorways - Lahore 1946

The word Shitomi (Japanese) for the door literally means ‘a small woven mat’ recalling the hanging curtain forms of doors in ancient buildings. Shitomi was used for protection against wind and rain. Windows filled with criss-cross lattices is called shitomimado.

  • ‘There are two basic types of Japanese door covers: 1 Hung from an overhead lintel, Uchinori nageshi , and 2 Lifted in or taken out of upper and lower tracks’. The former are sometimes attached at the top by hinges in such a way as to allow them to move left to right or vice versa.
  • Tsurijitomi (=lit. hanging shutters) is term for timber shutters or doors that generally have vertical and a horizontal lattice attached to the exterior surface and sometimes to the interior surface as well. The sliding type panel board shutter without a lattice is called Shitomibame. Shitomibame are also used on shops were either the set in or the sliding type, and served as protection from thieves.


Ancient openings were associated with the Sun. The Sun entered from the East and passed out from the West. The East was associated with life, joy and brightness, and the West with darkness, gloom and death. Intaglios Babylonian seals show Sun god passing through a double valved gate of the East, and beginning to climb the mountain of the sky. The Veda  (Indian ancient texts) says ‘the dawn shone with brilliance and opened for us the doors that are high and wide with their frames’. Even where four sides of a building have openings, it is the East door that is the great door or the gate of sunrise. The great Eastern door of the sun temple at Baalbek, ‘city of the sun,’ was 21′ w x 40′ h. Tombs in Egypt, Persia and Lycia have on West side a false door that was indicated like a real door. It is low and narrow, framed and decorated like the door of an ordinary house. Door of entrance marks the birth or new beginning, and the door of exit marks the death or end of the world.