Architecture Around the World

Mangalore house

The Vanishing House Architecture of Mangalore

Once upon a time, in Mangalore (Karnataka, India), there was a thriving tile industry. Roofing tile, that is.

Mangalore house

Typical tile roof

Tiles

Typical underside decorative tile

The tiles were used throughout India and they were known as “Mangalore Tiles”.
This was true in the not so distant past, just three decades ago, when there were still about 42 factories. Today only about 12 of them are surviving and are producing at a much lower capacity than in the preceding golden years.
The decline in this thriving industry is of course due to many factors and reflects the shift in habits and culture that has been rippling throughout the great subcontinent for decades now.
Like in the west, in fact, construction materials have changed and along with housing preferences have moved away from traditional ways, favoring apartment and condominium living.

New Mangalore housing

New complex under construction

Some of the major developers in the area proudly boast having “changed Mangalore’s skyline” and change it indeed they have.

New Mangalore housing

New addition in the Mangalore skyline

Anywhere you walk in Mangalore you can see multiple skyscrapers under construction.

New Mangalore housing

New complex under construction

New Mangalore housing

New complex under construction

And amongst these endless noisy job-sites however, nestled amidst luscious and sometimes overgrown tropical vegetation some “old treasures” can still be found.

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Some families have managed to hold onto their land, even those surrounded by enormous developments, some others proudly save their homes and even dare restore them to their old grandeur.

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Mangalore house

Why did I start from the tile industry when what I am going to talk about is old homes?
Well, Mangalorean homes all have very defined characters, one of them being a large expanse of steeply pitched roofs, showcasing fine Mangalore tiles. Something that none of the new sky-scraping developments can really claim. So once the use of the tiles declined, so did the tile industry of the area.
Many of the typical features of the architecture of Mangalore are directly linked to the local climate and culture.

  •   Pitched clay roofs to protect from the monsoon rains
  •   Covered exterior verandas protect from the scorching sun and provide a cooling spot during rainy season
  •   Use of locally sourced laterite stone blocks are the most suitable material as it is strong, hard and highly resistant to moisture.
Laterite stone block

Laterite stone block

  •  Wood and bamboo lattices provide additional shade and screening from the hot sun
  •   Lime plaster finish is again locally sourced and was abundant

All of these elements require ongoing and regular maintenance, especially in the tropical climate so rich in moisture and salt. Clay roofs had to be checked and tiles require replacement if broken. Most of the houses were also surrounded by coconut palm trees and it was not so unusual for stray coconuts to brake a few tiles  in one go. This is most likely one of the main driving elements to desiring a more “hands off” approach that apartments and condominiums provide.
One of the higher concentrations of these traditional homes was found around the main Railway station, where offices and personnel housing is located.

Railway housing

Railway housing

Railway housing

Railway housing

Railway housing

Railway housing

Railway housing

Railway housing

Another good example was provided by local schools and the Government College.

Mangalore school

Mangalore school

Mangalore Government College

Mangalore Government College

Mangalore Government College

Mangalore Government College

Mangalore Government College

Mangalore Government College

And these are examples of the new construction that is replacing the traditional housing architecture at a ratio of hundreds on units to one or two.
The units are of course being marketed heavily through newspapers and at the mall and it simply brought two questions to the forefront: “Are there really that many families moving into the area?”, and “At those prices how can people afford them?”.

New Mangalore housing

Advertising poster at local Mall

Ultimately only time will tell how all the thousands of new units will be filled and how the city of Mangalore will grow and develop.

As I was preparing to share my observations about Mangalore’s residential architecture I ran into the website for a local architect (N I R E N J A I N – Architect, Mangalore) and I was relieved to find that he still offered traditional design and construction of residences. I was also inspired to see that there are still people interested in commissioning them and living in such special spaces.

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2- Column detail

New Mumbai Airport now Open for Business

Valentine’s Day 2014 and our main plan is a travel plan.
Traveling from Mangalore, Karnataka, India to Los Angeles, California, via Mumbai, Maharastra, India.
As we reached Mumbai we did not have a valid boarding pass printed so we had to take a taxi from the Domestic Terminal to the International Terminal of the Mumbai airport (as opposed to using the terminal transfer bus otherwise provided).
We approached the majestic new Terminal 2 after a small detour due to the driver getting “somewhat” lost. We attributed this to the typical ongoing construction that most major airports are accustomed to, not realizing that it was a completely new airport.
It was an amazing view!! It felt surprisingly quieter than most other Indian airports. It was also surprisingly cleaner and whiter. It is in fact quite challenging to keep structures looking clean and new due to the weather conditions and high humidity and marine salty air of Mumbai.
We later found out that the terminal had actually only been in use since 2 days prior. Had it not been for the information desk telling us that it was only its 3rd day in operation we would not have known. In fact, except for a few minor glitches (wi-fi was not working, no public phones were yet installed and at the gates the bathrooms had no water) the whole terminal appeared to work quite smoothly.

Mumbai Terminal 2 exterior

Exterior of Mumbai Terminal 2 at dusk

Mumbai Terminal 2 exterior

Exterior of Mumbai Terminal 2 at dusk

Other tell-tale signs that the terminal was freshly into operation were the fresh flower garlands (malas) adorning all the airlines office doors in the basement labyrinth.

Once inside the space was very comfortable and functional.
The white columns in the check-in area evoked the stylized theme of the peacock feathers, characteristic of Indian art. The columns drew the eye to the seamless connection with the wide expanse of the ceiling. As a whole the space felt sheltering and struck the perfect balance and proportion with the human scale, leaving a desire to explore further the columns visible in the distance.

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2- Column detail

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2- Column detail

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2

Interior of Mumbai Terminal 2

The lighting panels serving the check-in desks were another expression of the Indian artistic heritage that guides the overall Terminal 2 design concept.

Mumbai Terminal 2

Mumbai Terminal 2

Here they also had a scaled model of the new terminal.

Mumbai Terminal 2

Model of New Mumbai Terminal 2

Even at the immigration line the careful attention to detail can be seen through a beautifully handcrafted wood door on the side.

The waiting areas at the gates gave more the feeling of being in a luxury hotel lobby than an airport. All this achieved through the use of graceful chandeliers in the shape of lotuses at different stages of blooming, warm colors and luscious vegetation.

Mumbai Terminal 2

Waiting area at gates

Mumbai Terminal 2

Waiting area at gates

The gates were equipped with “green walls” and throughout there were planters showcasing amazingly real greenery.

Mumbai Terminal 2

Mumbai Terminal 2 gates

Mumbai Terminal 2

Green panel at gates

Once I arrived home I decided to explore further into the creation of this new architectural gem and I found this inspiring video. It describes a whole other aspect of the terminal that I did not even get to experience (since it is mainly reserved to the arriving passengers). A showcase of India’s large artistic heritage, old and new, and the majestic feat of pulling it all together. It is about 30 minutes, but definitely worth watching.
If you are not up to such a long video here is a shorter one from the airport website.

If you have the chance to travel through Mumbai I would recommend making sure you have enough time to explore and enjoy this treasure upon your arrival. I know I sure will!

Then, our next stop was a stark contrast to the magnificent Mumbai Airport as we found ourselves in any other airport. It becomes clear then that they achieved their goal in differentiating themselves from the rest of the world.

Any other Airport

Any other Airport

One good feature here however were the continuous seating (without armrest) and a clear invitation to stretch out and rest (a nice pillows throughout) during the long international layovers.

Mumbai10

Invitation to rest

You really cannot beat that!
Happy travels!