Book Review: The Kitchen

By John Ota (Penguin Random House Canada, 2020)

The kitchen—always the most functional room of the house—has become the most socially pertinent room in recent times, and never more so than now. Author John Ota researched and wrote this book before the pandemic—and to be sure, his cross-border kitchen-hopping to the kitchens of Frank Lloyd Wright, Julia Child, Georgia O’Keefe and others is currently untenable. But the renewed need for home cooking has reminded us of the primordial importance of this domestic space.  The book offers an entertaining fly-through of 13 historic kitchens across North America, most of them selected more for the prominence of past occupants than for design significance. Although the book projects no scholarly pretence, Ota’s varied career in architecture enriches the breezy discussion, with a hand-drawn floor plan and perspective drawing launching each chapter. To be sure, the limited design analysis does whet the appetite for a meatier architectural exploration. I’d welcome a follow-up book from this author.