More than three-quarters of the Indian population lives in villages, and more than half of these villages live the old traditional ways. The planning, materials, elements, architectural detailing, etc., are designed and curated by locals in the village. They have been working on the architecture of these villages for generations. There’s a colloquial saying, ‘Old is Gold’, the architecture of these Indian villages goes by this saying. Their methods are old. They do not use new urban technology; they do not use the material for an aesthetic purpose only, instead they have a climate-responsive method of building. The villages from North to South of India are diverse in aesthetics but have one thing in common- Sustainability.
The villages in India can be labelled to be the root for sustainable architectural practices, even inspiration or derivation for ideas. The villagers, those who haven’t migrated yet, practice their heirloom occupation to date and hence practice everything that comes along with it. Most villagers are religious and are hence specific to Vaastu-shastra when it comes to the built environment which works out for thermal comfort indoors. Since the villagers in India are not exposed to the urban culture of branding and luxury, a simple concept of functional building and cost-effective architecture is prominent. Some of such villages and their architectural style are given below.
1. Muttom Village, Kanyakumari
This southern village has mud houses with a sloping roof to tackle the heavy and frequent rainfall based on the coastline. The houses are clustered along the coastal area since the major occupation of villagers is fishing. The houses are small with verandahs on the front, a common feature in coastal areas. The houses are built on higher grounds near the coast as a precaution against flooding. Most of the roofs are built with vents in higher sections to exercise the stack effect. The houses are built in mud on a raised stone plinth and roofs are covered in Mangalore tiles. Large openings to tackle humidity are another notable feature.
2. Pragpur, Himachal Pradesh
Flooded with heritage, this village in north India is an architectural wonder and must-visit for architects with gravity towards venerable architecture. Most structures being G+1 storied, this village stands in brick and stone with pahadi characteristics of roofs and openings. The roofs are sloping due to snowfall in the region and are built-in wood covered by roofing tiles. The pointed arches, small openings, and running corridors are some features in the village of Pragpur.
3. Bundi, Rajasthan
The village of Bundi may not be famous for its architecture, heritage, or forts, but it is definitely known due to its very extraordinary appearance created by blue limestone plastered houses. The alleys of Bundi mirror a blue tone across the whole town. Rajasthan is cognate with its parching heat and what better natural plaster to tackle heat than mud and lime.
4. Orchha, Madhya Pradesh
What better than intercepting the midday sunlight, to tackle the composite climate of Madhya Pradesh. The Orchha village full of heritage structures beaming in royalty has another beam side to the architecture, the small houses of locals plastered in locally available mud. The houses are low height with large openings covered in long projections creating a climate-responsive feature for the composite climate.
5. Mandawa, Rajasthan
Circular forms, conical thatch roofs, white painted designs on bare mud profiles, Mandawa is not only grandiose in its craft but also in its sustainably built village residences. Apart from the mud architecture, Mandwa even flashes many abandoned haveli that have prominent features of Rajasthani architecture in plan, design, and decorations.
6. Khonoma Village, Nagaland
And while everyone is busy building a bungalow with balconies and extravagant lobbies and bathrooms, a man in this village built his own hobbit home camouflaging the lush valleys in Khonoma. The whole village is subsisting on the slopes and uses architecture passed down from generations living here amidst the heavy rains and landslides, this small house is a contrast to the traditional but with respect to the surroundings and geographical features of the area. The house is built in wood, covered in plants on the roof all creating a compact living space with a breathtaking yard.
7. Junona Village, Chandrapur
A backward village struggling at the hands of migration and education, this village surrounding a lake near Chandrapur lives hand-in-hand with the harsh composite climate of Chandrapur. The climate shows extreme heat and extreme rainfall in both seasons and hence the houses have shaded areas for sun and courtyard spaces for humidity. Bamboo being locally available can be seen in the form of pergolas and other elements. Brick and Mangalore tiles for roofing are a common characteristic in the village.
The sustainable practises in urban cities today involve imitations from villages. These imitations are mostly upgraded to match the aesthetic and grandeur, which is a requirement for urban areas. One thing we can derive from such examples is that sustainability goes hand-in-hand with cost-effectiveness. Using local materials, methods, and technology not only saves money but also the environment.