Sanctum of Harmony: a sacred place linking Kerala architecture and performing art
by Sunena V MajuJan 06, 2023
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Meghna MehtaPublished on : Oct 21, 2020
The Paliam Veedu house designed by Meister Varma Architects draws inspiration from responsiveness to site by taking cues from traditional architecture of Kerala in southern India. The Paliam family patriarchs were hereditary prime ministers to the erstwhile Kingdom of Cochin, Kerala. Today, the ancestral home and palace of this family is a heritage complex, about an hour’s drive from the city of Kochi. The client, who got a small parcel of 160 sqm in the family partition, decided to build a vacation home there.
Initially, the client wished to build a two-storey structure that could accommodate the annual festival crowd as well. This would have resulted in a building disproportionate in scale and would have also cut off the view to the heritage roof-scape behind. However, the project got delayed due to family commitments and when the work commenced, principal architect Krishnan Varma and his team were able to convince the client for a single storey house that would fulfil their requirements.
Convincing clients to build smaller is something we have always done, even though it can mean reduced professional fees! – Krishnan Varma
The heritage complex that the house is a part of has been subdivided into small and large plots, many of which have boundary walls. Varma says it would have been good to demolish or realign some of these to re-establish those connections. “These limit and distort the historical connections between the buildings. Unfortunately it was not in the scope of this project,” adds Varma.
The brief was to design a home that could host the family’s frequent visits and also double up as accommodation for the multitude of classical artists and performers who grace the annual family festival. The layout has been largely informed by this initial requirement; keeping the bedroom areas to a minimum and giving over the living areas to an open plan layout. The circulation passage doubles up as an access to the heritage complex at the rear end, which would otherwise have been blocked with this new construction.
The design takes cues from traditional Kerala architecture around and also introduces a gable to contain the building edges. A rainwater channel in polished cement replaces the eaves and helps direct water in a more controlled way for storage. This structural channel has been repeated in each bay, giving long lintel-less windows in all the rooms. Jackfruit wood salvaged from traditional houses has been used as a grill for shading and security. Glass roof tiles delineate the passage through the house and animate the interiors with ever-changing light patterns on the floor.
The Paliam Veedu house becomes a thoroughfare as one enters and exits towards the heritage complex, almost making its own presence obsolete for the sake of its older accompaniments. The design is sensitive yet modern, humbly resting in its context much like a turtle head returning back into its shell.
Name: Paliam Veedu
Location: Chendamangalam, Kerala, India
Architecture Firm: Meister Varma Architects
Lead Architect: Krishnan Varma
Design Team: Krishnan Varma, Saumya Joseph
Collaborators: Roji Antony, Shaijan PV, Shaji Francis
Completion Year: 2020
Construction time: 18 months
Gross Built Area: 82 sqm
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