With sustainability topping the list of priorities for every modern architect, it is necessary that we draw inspiration from the various eco-friendly elements in traditional Indian architecture.
Though regional variations exist, several key features of sustainability characterise the centuries-old homes across India – be it the agraharams of Tamil Nadu, havelis of Rajasthan or naalukettus of Kerala.
In coastal Andhra Pradesh, especially in the villages of east and west Godavari, Guntur, Nellore, Cuddapah and Vijayanagaram districts, one can find the ingenious Manduva Logili houses, where each component contributes to one crucial environmental factor or the other.
Rainwater Conservation with a Copper Pillar
For instance, every Manduva Logili house has a hollow pillar-like structure installed at a central location of the house. Made entirely of copper, this hollow pillar is connected to a dome at the ceiling which opens to the sky. The terrace of the house is built in such a manner that all the rainwater falling on the roof is redirected towards this dome. The hollow copper pillar connected to the underground sump, channels the rainwater into the ground, thereby replenishing the groundwater levels around the house.
Generally, a pit is constructed on the ground floor parallel to the open dome on the terrace so that the rainwater falls directly into this pit before getting redistributed across underground water channels. You can then access the conserved rainwater through underground water tanks.
Curiously, it is claimed that these copper pillars also safeguard the house from thunderbolts during a storm.
Open Courtyard that Controls Temperature, Aeration & Drainage
Most of the Manduva Logili houses still found in Andhra Pradesh date back to before the 1950s. At that time, the joint family system was the prevalent norm in society, which explains the large area of a Manduva Logili house. Complete with an open courtyard surrounded by a series of rooms, the exquisite architectural splendour of these homes can be assessed from the carved solid rosewood or teakwood pillars that surround the open courtyard for support.
The open courtyard allows ample sunlight to penetrate all the rooms equally at different times of the day. In addition, the spatial courtyard helps maintain proper air ventilation, keeping the house cooler than outside throughout the year, especially during the hot summer months. Additionally, the drainage system of this courtyard redirects rainwater to flow out from the sides without accumulating inside at any point.
An ornately designed grand simhadwaram designates the main entrance of a Manduva Logili home.
Predominantly built with all naturally procured resources like gummy or pasty soil and red-coloured Mangalore or Vadapalli tiles, these houses have an abundance of wood in their structure, mostly comprising the pillars. The traditional red tiles cover the roof of the house while red bricks make the main structure of the walls.
Though rosewood or teakwood pillars constitute a standout element of Manduva Logili homes, this particular feature is also a disadvantage when it comes to longevity. The wooden structures are prone to infestation by termites, the main roadblock in the preservation of these heritage homes. Due to stricter forestry laws, rosewood or teakwood is quite difficult to procure at present times, especially as large wooden logs.
A Race Against Time
Presently, the Manduva Logili homes are fast disappearing from the villages of Andhra Pradesh. With an altered social structure where the joint family system is no longer prevalent, smaller, modernised homes are replacing these large houses.
The expensive upkeep is another main contributor to the fast extinction of these houses, often leading to families scattering out to the cities, leaving these homes unkempt for years. Commercial buildings or high-rise apartment complexes are now replacing many such existing Manduva Logilis. A few conservation architects staunchly advocate the preservation of these beautiful abodes, but most of the houses are being lost in the tide of time.
Interestingly, instead of deserting the homes, some families are choosing to refurbish the traditional Manduva Logilis with modern interiors, without altering the primary design or facade of the houses. However, such renovations can also incur a considerable expense which often cannot be borne by many families.
The only hope for conserving these epitomes of sustainable architecture lies with the next generation, who can take the initiative to preserve them.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)