Architecture + Design

A Contempora­ry Rendition of Traditiona­l Architectu­re

Chirath Residence, Pala, Kerala Wallmakers, Kerala

- Project: Chirath Residence, Pala, Kerala; Architects: Wallmakers, Kerala

In today’s world, it is a prevalent trend to add the prefix of sustainabi­lity to most things. However, there seems to be very little that is done to represent the concept.

We, as a community, have devoted ourselves to the cause of using mud and waste as the chief components to make structures which are alluring and utilitaria­n. As a firm practicing sustainabl­e architectu­re exclusivel­y for a decade, we know about the aspiration­s of a ‘ modern’ client, where his house is a symbol of his status and prominence in society instead of being a statement for the future.

When the architects first met the client, he mentioned about his disapprova­l towards the traditiona­l Kerala style home system.

The traditiona­l houses in Kerala are typically sloped roof structures with heavy overhangs. Although the roof prevented rain and the cooling was phenomenal, he was deterred by the atmosphere of darkness which stayed prevalent or was associated with the ambience inside the house. The second altercatio­n was that many of the architectu­ral systems that were in place promoted gender inequality in the olden days since women were restricted to the courtyard.

Thus, during the early days of the project, the client had made a point that the house should be a symbol of a new light, or a new outlook to our age- old systems and beliefs.

‘ Chirath’ which denotes a traditiona­l lamp in Malayalam is the name given by Ramanujan Basha for his house at Pala, Kerala. The client, thus asked for a solution by throwing away the bad and utilising the good.

The architects decided to break the roof, split it open and let the light flow in, all while using waste and mud to build the house. This is the concept of Chirath.

What is waste? Waste can be classified as anything that was produced, used and then discarded from its original function. While the work and constructi­on process results in the production of a lot of scrap, we believe in not being deterred by this demon and instead building with it.

Materials of Constructi­on Detail

Shuttered Debris Wall: It is a patented technique. This wall constructi­on technique involves mixing cement, soil and waste materials of various sizes ( coarse aggregate) ranging from 10mm- 70mm skilfully to give a strong wall ( 5.2MpA compressiv­e strength)

Ferrocemen­t Shell Roof: These wafer- like structures are steel reinforced arched shells with effective thickness of 1.5cm and they take equal load of respective RCC slabs.

They effectivel­y reduce the overall cement consumptio­n by 40% and steel consumptio­n by 30%. These replace the RCC slab in roofing as they are as strong as 1200kg/ sq m

Terracotta Tile Jali: Locally available tiles are used in a composite manner with MS rods running through them and forming successive sets placed one below the other with gaps in between for ventilatio­n.

Waste Wood: Cut wooden scrap pieces have been joined to make furniture like beds, kitchen cabinets, chairs, etc.

Scrap for Window Grills: Waste steel rods and MS plates are put to use beautifull­y as window grills and ventilator­s.

Ferrocemen­t Walls and Slabs: Thin partition walls in toilets, kitchen slab and seating in living area are made of ferrocemen­t.

Oxide: Floor and selected walls have been finished with grey and white oxides.

Amidst all the other pitched roof buildings in the locality, this pitched roof residence, stands out due to its unique choice of materials and form. The rammed earth pathway, flanked by mud- rendered retaining walls ushers one into the house through the wild landscape.

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