Monday, September 17, 2007

Konkan house clusters

In Coastal Maharashtra, houses in rural areas are nestled amidst the trees and the paddy fields. There is abundant land available to build upon and yet, the houses lie snugly next to each other.

In India, the people who farmed, who fished and who have built their houses with their highly developed skills of craftsmanship always planned a house that was their own but that also belonged to the village. It was only one unit of the many that made up the village street. One house was built, then the next and the next. Streets that were thus formed were shaded from the afternoon sun.

Here, the roofs are built in timber understructure with mangalore tiles. The walls are in brick and verandahs are created with brick arches that offer structural support. The plan of the house is primarily square. The square tiled roof is seen as a common element throughout the coastal villages of the Konkan region.

In a post-graduate thesis in Landscape architecture, CEPT university, Shruti Bhagwat points out that the villages here are ideal watersheds. The village jungle is treated as common property and preserved. Phenomena like sacred groves and bunded water channels that were maintained traditionally are still common in the konkan.

As one passes by Saplak, near Mhalsa, one notices that entire streets are lined with mangalore-tiled houses. This is a fairly prosperous town which has diamond merchants who have artisans skilled in diamond cutting. Saplak is on the way to Harihareeshwar. It is also interesting to study the houses in Mahad, in Chiplun and other parts of Ratnagiri, Raigad and Sindhudurg districts.

In the contemporary context, environmentally responsible design would require that materials and elements of the building be reuseable, wherever possible. The siting process may include an in-depth understanding of sun orientation, soils, vegetation and water resources. We may want to design landscapes to absorb rainwater runoff (storm water) rather than to carry it off-site in storm sewers. The architecture of the konkan coast is climatically responsive, uses a sustainable approach and has an indian identity. It is important for us to know the indigeneous traditions of these regions and to work towards the continuity of the architecture of the past.
Here is a link to a Bazaar on the Konkan coast