Reinventing Tradition

Reinventing Tradition

Project: Dr Muneer Residence, Malappuram

Architects: De Earth Architects, Calicut

The architecture of Kerala has a rich tradition of construction based on Vastu Shastra. The project aims at transforming a traditional house and making it more suitable for contemporary requirements and luxury, without losing its traditional charm. Such a transformation requires a detailed study of the spatial qualities, climatic responses, traditional construction techniques as well as the philosophy of the built form. The renovated house in Parappanangadi, Malappuram, attempts to bring out such values of traditional architecture.

Nalukettu is the traditional homestead of Tharavadu, where many generations of a matrilineal family lived. The traditional architecture is typically a rectangular structure where four blocks come together with a central courtyard open to the sky, which creates slender built spaces creating maximum ventilation inside. The pitched roof is at a very low height to avoid direct sun and create reflected light inside the spaces. The response to the exterior spaces is also well-layered in traditional architecture. Apart from these, the traditional house has a sense of nostalgia attached to
it, with stories that pass on from one generation to another.

Reinventing the traditional values in the present context without losing the essence at the same time, and matching the present-day requirements of the clients requires a novel approach. This project is not just about reviving the lost art of traditional architecture of Kerala, but an attempt to redefine the luxury of space keeping the values of its original form and spatial qualities in mind. We attempt at bringing in the essence of architecture by keeping it true to its content, materials, and traditional techniques, and evoking the feeling of intimacy in spaces. The space pulls you closer to nature with large verandas and a central courtyard, which is the major design element in this house.

Though it’s a common feature of traditional houses, the original house was not Nalukettu (which means it was not designed as a four-block built space with a central courtyard). We re-arranged and extended the built space to complete the four blocks as an extension to the main structure. A long veranda is also added on to the original structure to enhance the entry layer. The house is planned with an entry structure along with security room and gate, which acts as first layer of screening which leads to a landscape walk. The main structure is retained as such for one to appreciate the purity of construction and intricate details with its wooden windows, pillars, ceiling and roof. The laterite masonry originally covered with lime plaster was removed and exposed to create a dramatic spatial quality as well as texture.

The main block with all its dark interiors with wooden window shutters, reduce the heat intake and keep interiors cool. The extensions made for the existing structures are executed with latest construction technology and materials such as steel roofs and minimalist edge details. Special attention is given to merge both constructions to give a traditional ambience – one as a retained structure with dark corridors and rich details, and at the same time, the new part is well-lit with courtyards and usage of traditional skylights in modern geometric patterns. Both distinctive aspects are merged together to create a space that has dark as well as lit spatial qualities, which evokes the feeling of old and new. Though the traditional spatial qualities were retained in terms of planning, hierarchy of spaces and material usage, the details and joints are all contemporary with minimalistic approach with traditional materials. The richness is brought in to the spaces with the use of wood, brass and light and shade. The landscape also enriches the built space with the use of plants. A traditional pond is also planned within the plot for rainwater harvesting.

Fact File

Client: Dr Muneer

Consultants: Structural – Projem; Electrical – Focus Electricals; Interior – Kiara; Landscape – Greenland; Plumbing – Techno Plumbing

Built-up area: 5,763sq ft

Cost of project: Rs 1.5 Cr

Year of completion: 2016

Company names of products and materials used: Tiles – Squares Tiles Calicut; Flooring Material – wood, mural tiles and terracotta; Wall – exposed laterite cladding; False Ceiling – wooddark