The evolution of mankind and architecture has always moved hand-in-hand. Many elements of architecture have developed across eras, civilizations, climate change and geographies such that there evolved an established indigenous style in every part of the world. These elements have metamorphosed in design over time, from traditional to contemporary. The story of Indian architecture, through history till date, has numerous unique architectural elements which are still imbibed in our contemporary structures in interesting ways. Here are a few such elements which have made it to modern Indian homes.
As soon as we hear the names of palaces in Rajasthan and Gujarat, the first thing that comes to our minds are the intricately cut-out patterns on the doors and windows of these structures, known as ‘jaalis’. These patterns allow sunlight to filter through the openings and create an interesting play of light and shadow. Jaalis also prevent direct sunlight from entering the room as they dissipate the light. Also, they enable ventilation in the room and provide privacy for users of the space.
While passing through the jaali holes, the air is compressed and hence the temperature is lowered, thus cooling the home. Jaalis are represented in modern home designs as an external aesthetic feature or in internal partition walls.
L- Traditional Jaali in at Sarkhej Roza; R- Contemporary Jaali style in Brick Curtain House by Design Work Group
A traditional balcony which also acted as a semi-open space is called a ‘jharoka’. This architectural element is generally designed in the form of an overhang with intricately carved railings in stone or wood. Jharokas are also covered on top with domes or other semi-circular styles, usually supported by posts or columns. The original use of these jharokas in palaces or houses was primarily for the female members of the family who preferred to be a part of functions without being visible to the public. Jharokas also have a romantic element involved in the stories from our history, as the princess was generally ‘spotted’ standing in the balcony. Apart from this, jharokas also added to the aesthetic appeal of the structure.
In contemporary structures, jharokas have been imbibed using different materials such as brick, concrete or marble. They add a traditional appeal to the design and also provide a semi-open space in the house which can be an inlet to natural light and ventilation.
Courtyards are open spaces within the structure itself; in India courtyard styles vary based on the climate of the region. Be it the Wadas of Maharashtra, Havelis of Rajasthan, Pols of Gujarat or Nalukettu of Kerala, courtyards played a major role as a functional and aesthetic space of these houses. Courtyards work on the principle of convection currents, where warm air is drawn out and replaced by cool air. Therefore it works in both summer and winter- to keep the house cool and to bring in the winter sun, respectively. These centrally located courtyards also serve as spaces of congregation for family get togethers and other functions. They also act as buffer spaces between public and private areas of the house.
In modern day homes, this architectural element is a mark of luxury where architects use their creative energies to make the space unique and well connected to nature.
Verandah, Pitched Roof and Mangalore Tiles
Pitched roof with Mangalore tiles or red baked tiles are a common sight in Indian villages. Coupled with this, we usually find a verandah or a semi-open space - generally at the entrance or as a buffer between the closed and completely open spaces. Mangalore tiled roofs add to the beauty of a house more than a concrete one. They are also suitable for India’s climatic conditions as they keep the inner spaces of the house cool. Pitched roofs add on to the height of the ceiling of the house as well.
Verandahs, which make the intermediate space- are also a symbol of the Hindu tradition of welcoming guests with an open heart or more precisely- an open and welcoming house.
L- Pitched roof with Mangalore tiles and a verandah in an old house in South India; R- Pitched roof with Mangalore tiles and Verandah in Fernandes House by Khosla Associates
The wonderful aspect about architecture is its unstagnant nature- it will always change with time. This gives one the chance to keep modifying necessary elements of structures in one’s own creative way. At House of Hiranandani, we explore with design and meld the traditional with the modern. Our residences boast large living spaces with spacious balconies. Our project in Devanahalli boasts roofs with the classic Mangalore tiles. To quote from a movie- ‘we have to take the tradition and decorate it in our own way’.