Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Openings in British Raj period of India

BRITISH RAJ PERIOD: During the British (and Dutch, French. Portuguese) colonizations in India building designs were refashioned to suit their perception, attitudes, functional and climatic needs. The Kothi or Bungalow though built through local materials and techniques and conceived for the tropical climate, had elements that satisfied such needs. The designs provided few new solutions for the local conditions so found immediate and wide acceptance among the local gentry. The double window (top + bottom) was one such element replacing the Zarokha openings. The double casement window had top and bottom sections each with double leaf shutters. It was similar to a Dutch door. It became a standard feature of many Indian residences and public buildings. The upper section was sufficiently protected by the awning or chhajja, and so could be kept open in all seasons. The lower section was opened in the evenings for the breeze over the floor level activities. It also allowed one to look out while seating on the floor or resting on the bed. The shutters were shelf-pivot hung or sides hinged, mostly opening to outside. Another set of folding type fly mesh shutters, opening on the inside, but within the wall thickness was also provided. This was a period when across the Europe and USA double-hung sash windows were a rage. Yet nowhere in India sash windows have been exploited.

The verandah door was a major and very effective opening for a room, like the  French door or window. In addition to the solid wood plank door, it had auxiliary shutters with either fixed Venetian slats or a fly mesh.

Store and other minor rooms were provided with higher sill level openings but with a tapered ledge on the outside or inside. The outside tapered ledge allowed clear view of the street below, whereas the inside sloped sill allowed more light. Across Northern India, rooms had ceiling level ventilating apertures, with awning casement shutter or a shutter less latticed opening. Doors and windows also had transom lites, with a top hung awning casement shutter in square headed openings and arched heads fixed panes of coloured pieces of figured glass with radial muntins were used.

Tall windows reaching from floor to ceiling level had to be avoided for reasons of rain and solar gain. However, windows were masked with Venetian shutters -with fixed but open louvres on exterior face such as in Chettiar houses of Tamil Nadu and Government offices of Calcutta, West Bengal, to curtail the glare while allowing the breeze. The intricate wood joinery did not work well with the long and heavy monsoon. Similar Venetians shuttered windows were used in Eastern India, Neighbouring Burma and other countries of SE Asia.

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