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August 21, 2022

Did the traditional veranda evolve, in modern villas?

BBY BougainVillas Admin

Courtyards, stairways and verandas in traditional houses were once spaces where daily household activities either overlapped or were shared. As distinct from modern-day balconies, the traditional veranda was at the entrance to the house. Indians of all social backgrounds considered it as one of the most important parts of the house, decorating it with rangoli, flower-pots, religious icons or deities and on special occasions with things more eye-catching, like festoons or diyas. That explains why throughout the country’s varied landscape, traditional entrances were flanked by distinctive front verandas that merged the street with the house, whether it was a humble rural abode or a regal town villa.

A space to chill

In India, before the advent of all manner of electrical cooling devices, the typical entrance veranda emerged out of a need for outdoor space that would be cooler than the indoors. In order to avoid the heat, people would spend most of their day in this space. The activities would range from early morning chores to evening lessons for children of the community. It was not unusual to see various age-groups taking over the veranda at different times of the day – the matriarch in the early morning, the patriarch with his newspaper, housewives taking their midday breather, the afternoon gossip point between elderly neighbours, children coming back from school and dashing out instantly, the evening family get-together… so on and so forth.

The veranda was the place where the sounds and smells from the constant movement of people were shared between the public and semi-public areas; the house and the street. It received special attention every morning through worship and decoration, especially during festivities and it was also a space to extend hospitality, one where neighbours and passers-by could stop by for spontaneous conversation before moving on.

Unique private outdoor

Modern apartment and house designs began maximising on indoor living, leaving outdoor spaces as an afterthought. While the front veranda shrank, large patios and balconies grew at the back of the house, offering a unique private outdoor experience. In most present-day single occupancy houses the veranda has been replaced. It has been cut off from the street, replaced by compound walls and gates. What speeded up the extinction of the veranda in urban India?

Well, for one… it is worth bearing in mind that air-conditioners, television and the internet have created more comfortable indoors, making outdoor living spaces redundant. Secondly, alternative architectural shading devices like shutters, awnings, canopies, blinds and projecting horizontal and vertical fins challenged the veranda’s ability to cool spaces. Thirdly, streets are no longer filled with the chatter of neighbours and hawkers. They are now repositories of noise and pollution from vehicular traffic, forcing residences to turn away from the street.

New avatar of old verandas

Interestingly, the traditional entrance veranda may have evolved into modern avatars: the entry foyer for one, a space one first walks into in any contemporary building. It is more secure for the deliveries and transactional conversations of today’s Indian metro cities. Indian villages still hold onto traditional ways of life and the architecture that supports them, but metros have responded to privatised lifestyles. Even so, one may occasionally find a person in a middle-class apartment block, with a shared corridor, enjoying a newspaper seated in that corridor or calling out to a vendor down below.

At Gems Bougainvillas, we believe that the innate openness of human beings yearns to express itself. Consequently, we have melded modern avatars of the old veranda into the architecture of every one of our villas and bungalows in Kolkata whether 2BHK, 3BHK, 4BHK or 5BHK; ranging from overhanging balconies to rooftop terraces… to even raised decks on the front lawn or to the side to sit out with family… and new friends, namely, your new neighbours.

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