Written: Salonee Ghosh | Edited: Sanjay Jain

A distinctive architectural feature, verandahs have always been found in Indian homes, permitting the homeowners to lounge in the winter sunlight, overlooking an expansive view while simultaneously allowing light and ventilation to enter their residences. They serve as transition spaces between the outdoors and indoors.

In the modern day, balconies are far more ubiquitous and far less romanticized. With increasing density in urban areas, balconies often face neighbouring buildings mere feet away. This, combined with the threat of growing pollution drives people to enclose their balconies, affixing grills and wire meshes to keep out birds and opaque screens to ward off prying eyes. The space crunch in most modern apartments also leads people to convert these into storage or utility spaces, reducing them to functional rooms that fully belong to the ‘indoors’. In doing so, the essence of the space is lost completely. As architects, it is important to restore the original intent of the ‘verandah’ while addressing the issues faced by residents in cities today.

Kochar’s House in Bangalore faced a similar dilemma. We turned to the jaali, an age-old element of vernacular architecture, to resolve the issue of privacy while not compromising on the quality of light and ventilation. The scale of the balcony itself was increased to resemble a small room adjacent to the living space, such that it could act as a spill out area. If required, it could be isolated by means of sliding partitions with glass panels.

The verandah evolved into a double heighted courtyard with a self-supporting jaali wall, capped with a filler slab with hollow frustums that punctured the concrete, transforming the space into a light court. A large semi-circular opening with ornate fixed and openable MS grills presented the option of transforming the courtyard into a large verandah. When closed, the combination of the jaali wall and the patterns of steel create an interesting interplay of light and shadow that vary as the day progresses.

A key aspect of verandahs is their ability to cater to multiple uses. The relatively large scale of the court permits it to be used independently, for family gatherings, as a play area for children or by individuals seeking calm surrounded by light, plants and a soothing aesthetic.

Negotiating between an idealistic design and the restrictions posed by reality to create usable, enjoyable spaces is the only way forward in the modern world. Elements of design such as the verandah need to evolve over time while retaining their core functions of catering to light, ventilation and panoramic views.