Every architect knows that Architectural Design is not complete if we don’t take climatology into consideration. While the client’s satisfaction is of prime importance, the solace of doing our job right also gives some satisfaction. This would happen only if we take the micro-climate of the site, lighting, etc, all into cogitation because a successful design is synonymous with comfortable living for the occupants.

In today’s world, the design is incomplete without sustainability factors. To put two and two together, VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURE. The easiest, most cost-effective way of designing a completely sustainable structure, using indigenous material and labor, generating employment in the process, we can complete the entire economical cycle. 

Tamil Nadu Houses

1. Chettinad Houses | Houses of Tamil Nadu

10 Examples of Vernacular architecture in South India - Sheet1

The first vernacular house that comes to mind when we say vernacular in Tamil Nadu is the Chettinad house, these are ancestral houses of the merchants of that time. The house primarily uses wood, that is also incidentally what the merchants traded with the then Myanmar. Presently, these houses are prevalent in some villages in Tamil Nadu. These houses are usually for the upper-class society.

2. The Brahmin houses of Ambur 

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Yet another vernacular house from the south, these houses come with the temple Area. Considering that the people from this section of the society are the priests, it becomes comfortable when the temple is connected with the house/ or sometimes they just house a large Pooja area. These houses are generally built out of stones.

3. Agricultural Houses

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These are the most predominant type of housing, that can be found in almost all the village areas, along the agricultural fields. They have large slanting roofs and an outside area like all of the above ones.

4. Potter’s House | Houses of Tamil Nadu

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These houses can usually be found near river-banks, amicably for the soil used to make the pots. They are usually for the poor sections of the society, hence made of mud and have a thatched roofing system.

The above four houses have something in common, except for being located in the same state, all these houses have the same layout. They all vary, based on the economic capabilities, the houses are smaller or bigger and in materials. As for the layout, the houses all begin with the thinnai, these are the sitting areas outside in the frontage of the house. They open up into the muttam, or the open courtyard which is surrounded by the other rooms of the house.


5. Syrian Christian Houses

10 Examples of Vernacular architecture in South India - Sheet5

Wooden houses crafted as most Travancore houses with a basement, well in the kitchen, and the long Verandahs. The houses have traditional gables like roofing to prevent rain from entering the house. These houses are usually single-storied, some western influences like the masonry structure including a living room, dining, and kitchen can be noticed.

6. The Calicut Houses

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The very typical two storied middle-class houses with numerous small rooms, providing privacy at a budget. They are primarily built of the abundant laterite found in the neighborhood and timber. These houses are traditionally occupied by the many Hindu joint families. The houses generally consisted of members belonging to over three or four generations.


7. The Chikmagalur houses

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Chikmagalur housed the quintessential Muslim traders. Since they were a bit higher on the economical hierarchy, the architecture certainly shows it. The house speaks grandeur fluently with its timber pillars and two stories. The houses are gable-roofed with terracotta tiles.

8. Ilkal weaver’s house

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The weaver settlement in Bagalkot District in Karnataka is an excellent example of stone construction. These houses were huge in size and filled a pattern throughout the settlement. They have monumental entrance structures made of stone.

Andhra Pradesh

9. Coastal Andhra Houses | Houses of Tamil Nadu

10 Examples of Vernacular architecture in South India - Sheet9

The Vishakapatnam Chuttuillu, a roundhouse with thatched roofing arranged in a circular form, clustering to avoid the stormy winds. These houses are usually for the fishermen community. The walls are built using the cob method, earth mixed with water, placed in a row developing to form a wall. A special feature of the roof is that they are angles at 45 degrees if it’s any less, which would cause water to fall through the palm thatch leaves.

10. Bhawanti Houses

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The weaver’s houses from Telangana follow a  chitrasala, layout with three sections in the front and the rooms at the back, housing a courtyard at the center. Usually built of bamboo, palmyra as beams, and roof tiles in a semi-circular shape. According to economic conditions the house might have an enclosed garden area.

While vernacular houses usually only refer to climatic conditions, the houses in the south depend largely on the economic factors of the families. The use of local materials and labor must have made things cheaper and more feasible. Their livelihood and jobs are very visible from the architecture. The house shapes the people and is shaped by the people.


An undergrad student who dreams of building castles in the sky with her words. Yep! She is an aspiring architect and writer, living between the grand mosques of the gulf and the palatial indian palaces, currently, hankering for a peripatetic lifestyle all the while maintaining her non-existing social life!

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