Vernacular architecture originated when mankind started to provide itself shelter according to his circumstances, made from surrounding materials. It is a mere response to society’s needs that has allowed man to construct climate-responsive structures even before the architects.

Such simple traditions have long been regarded as backward and seemingly forgotten in modern architecture but are catching eyes back, as these structures have proven to be energy-efficient and altogether sustainable. During this time of rapid technological advancement and urbanization, there is still much to be learned from the traditional knowledge of vernacular construction.

So here are some different vernacular architecture styles in India which have stood upright way more than our concrete structures and are extremely energy efficient and climate responsive.

1. KOTI BANAL FROM UTTARKASHI DISTRICT OF UTTARAKHAND

Koti banal structures are earthquake resistant buildings which have been standing since past 900 years in Rajgarhi area of Uttarkashi and can be anywhere from 2-7 storeys high although the residences are generally 2 or 3 storeys , where the lower storey is for keeping cattle and upper storeys are for residing and as attic to store grains.

The building rests upon a raised platform made from dry masonry over the foundation. The walls are 50 to 60cm thick and are made up of timber reinforced stone masonry with the paste of pulse as mortar, the structure has minimum openings so that the heat is trapped inside the house, single small door access on the ground floor and relatively smaller south-facing windows are provided, the upper two floors have balconies running around the whole building cantilevered with the support of wooden logs of the flooring system with a wooden railing. The roof consists of a wooden frame and is cladded with slate tiles.

KOTI BANAL FROM UTTARKASHI DISTRICT OF UTTARAKHAND - Sheet1
Koti Banal ©Pinterest
KOTI BANAL FROM UTTARKASHI DISTRICT OF UTTARAKHAND - Sheet2
Koti Banal ©Uttarakhand stories
KOTI BANAL FROM UTTARKASHI DISTRICT OF UTTARAKHAND - Sheet3
Koti Banal ©Wall masonry,source sahapedia

2. BHUNGA FROM KUTCH DISTRICT OF GUJARAT

A typical Bhunga house consists of a single cylindrical-shaped room topped with a conical thatch roof supported by wooden post and rafter. The walls are made up of mud bricks and generally have only 3 openings: one for the door and two for windows that are set at a lower level to draw cooling breeze.

The circular form of these houses helps to provide insulation against the external environment by resisting high-velocity desert winds and reducing exposure to heat; it also resists lateral forces of an earthquake, thus, making the structure earthquake resistant.

Since, the traditional Bhunga dwelling requires regular maintenance i.e. a regular application of lime plaster to the walls and floor and replacing dried grass on the roof more and more houses nowadays are shifting towards Mangalore tiles as an alternative to the thatched roof.

BHUNGA FROM KUTCH DISTRICT OF GUJARAT - Sheet1
Bhunga ©d’source
BHUNGA FROM KUTCH DISTRICT OF GUJARAT - Sheet2
Bhunga ©d’source
BHUNGA FROM KUTCH DISTRICT OF GUJARAT - Sheet3
Bhunga ©Karwaan
BHUNGA FROM KUTCH DISTRICT OF GUJARAT - Sheet4
Bhunga ©The diplomat

3. BAMBOO HOUSE OF ASSAM

As the state goes through flooding almost every year, the traditional bamboo house has a higher plinth level. The structure can be of maximum two storeys connected through the bamboo staircase, and the walls are of timber frames inserted with ikra panels(A weed, which grows in river plains and lakes across the state of Assam) covered with 3 layers of mud mortar plaster, open spaces are provided in front (chotal) and backside (bari)of the house.

Due to heavy downpour round the year, Gable or Hip roof are considered best options as it doesn’t allow waterlogging and are made up of locally available grass which can last up to 10 years before being replaced.

BAMBOO HOUSE OF ASSAM - Sheet1
Bamboo House ©flickr.com
BAMBOO HOUSE OF ASSAM - Sheet2
Bamboo House ©pinterest.com
BAMBOO HOUSE OF ASSAM - Sheet3
Interlaced wall panels ©slideshare.com
BAMBOO HOUSE OF ASSAM - Sheet4
Bamboo House ©www.wordpress.com

4. MUD AND TIMBER ARCHITECTURE OF LADAKH

A traditional house of Ladakh consists of a single large room with an oven in the corner which is used for cooling as well as heating the interior spaces and is made entirely of mud, sometimes reinforced with horizontally placed timber members. The ground level is reserved for animals, wood, and fodder storage for winters whereas the upper level has the habitable spaces.

Cavity walls of the structure are either made of sun-dried bricks or rammed earth and a six-inch gap between the two walls is filled with low-cost insulation: sawdust or wood shaving mixed with earth and clay. The walls are generally thick at the bottom and taper gradually as they rise, these are coated with 15-25 mm thick wet mud plaster. Most mud plasters have to be repaired annually.

As Ladakh sustains in cold and dry climatic conditions, the ceiling is mainly built in mud and wood due to their insulating properties and easy availability and is cladded with slates. The ceiling height is kept low to provide the required insulation in all the areas. The heat is trapped and the temperature is maintained inside for a conducive living.

MUD AND TIMBER ARCHITECTURE OF LADAKH - Sheet1
Mud and Timber Architecture ©Himanshu Khagta
MUD AND TIMBER ARCHITECTURE OF LADAKH - Sheet2
Mud and Timber Architecture ©Pinterest

5. CHUTTILLU FROM VISAKHAPATNAM DISTRICT OF ANDHRA PRADESH

Chuttilu style houses are built with mud or mud and wattle, the house is raised on a plinth decorated with finger marks in white rice paste or vertical stripes of white and red ochre. Thickly thatched roof projects and comes down very low on all sides to protect interiors of the mud walls from the rains and because of it, it was better not to have windows.

The interior of the house is divided into two or three rooms: the inner circular room is used to stock grains during summer and used as sleeping space during winters, it is enveloped by another circular space that serves as the kitchen on one side and a store or a sitting/sleeping area at the other end. Each house has a spacious verandah at the entrance.

Earlier, the houses were built close to each other in a circular formation so that the cyclonic winds that often hit the coast bounced off tangentially away from the cluster.

CHUTTILLU FROM VISAKHAPATNAM DISTRICT OF ANDHRA PRADESH - Sheet1CHUTTILLU FROM VISAKHAPATNAM DISTRICT OF ANDHRA PRADESH - Sheet2CHUTTILLU FROM VISAKHAPATNAM DISTRICT OF ANDHRA PRADESH - Sheet3

IMAGE SOURCES-

  1. Chuttillu ©Mapio.net
  2. Chuttillu ©Slideshare
  3. Chuttillu ©Wikimedia commons
Author

Architectural Journalist

Rethinking The Future

Aditi Garg is pursuing final year of B.arch and believes in sustainable architectural practices. She came to RTF while discovering architectural journalism and is passionate about documenting ideas and architecture.

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