Terracotta jaali facade for Chettinad home
Photographer: Prithvi M. Samy, Balaji Pandiyan
Madurai-based S.T.O.M.P has designed the House in a Grove in Chettinad, which was to innovate a plan that steeps a modern home in the cultural essence of Chettinad’s glorious past.
The fundamental elements entailed massing, accommodating an open plan and hierarchy of spaces connected through corridors and projected eaves to house indoor-outdoor spaces. To combat solar radiation and facilitate cross ventilation, the architects developed a façade skin of terracotta jaali to provide thermal insulation, ventilation and natural light. Two major light-wells in the form of façade jaali and skylight engage interiors in a constant cavorting of light and shadow.
The lounge on the first floor, made of filler slab, witnesses the play of light and shadows at sunrise, accelerated by the terra-jaali and skylight, endowing a fleeting and shifting quality to the interiors through time. The light and shadow configurations are further complemented by the rustic finishes used throughout the house.
Exposed concrete is used on the ceilings, marble plaster on the walls and the floors are a mix of natural wood, Jaisalmer and Kota marbles and Athangudi tiles. While the decision to use Athangudi tiles is to incorporate a slice of Chettinad heritage, the core intent is to procure materials from within a 50 km radius of the site. The terracotta pots used in the filler slabs have also been made with soil excavated from the site. Similarly, deteriorated trees on site were cut and their wood used for concrete shuttering.
While the house does not imbibe the architecture, aesthetics or grandeur of Chettinad, the intent was never to mirror ‘heritage’ or revel in nostalgia of the past. Instead, the endeavour was to play upon the seed of heritage and chart a new journey thereon. The result is a home that reflects a fusion of traditional culture and some heritage with contemporary ideas.