October 30, 2019 By 0 Comments

Vernacular architecture needs no introduction- it has been around since ages! Much before architects or designers happened, the locals in any specific area followed (and still do) certain constructional methods and materials. Obviously, many of these structures have stood the test of time.

So what makes vernacular architecture different from other types? Is it still valid? Are there any advantages on following such methods? Also, for a country as diverse as India, does the concept work well?


Vernacular Architecture: Things to know

To begin with, vernacular architecture was born out of immediate housing & protection needs. Hence, even though certain forms evolved or adapted to changes, most remain similar to earliest versions of each type. Basically, all forms developed out of three basic factors:

  • SITE CONDITIONS : To construct a house at any place, the terrain, topography and site orientation are the core elements for consideration. And the locals, with their traditional ways of life that passed through generations, knew the fact. As a result, vernacular architecture displays certain region specific characteristics that only add to its strength.
  • MATERIAL : Of course, the materials are typically local in origin. In vernacular architecture, imported items never make sense. Also, these structures often have required thermal/ acoustic insulation, earthquake resistant properties and so on. And in all of these, materials play a vital role in balancing the structure.
  • CLIMATE : Not only material selection, but even the construction techniques depend on the local climate. India has diverse climatic conditions across its stretch. At certain places, people need cool interiors for protection against hot climate. In certain others, locals need adequate warmth and heat inside their homes. And with vernacular architecture, locals have been living harmoniously in even harsh conditions.

Indian vernacular architecture

There have been many traditional dwellings in India. However, it is interesting to note that even though more than 90% of Indians follow this style, it has only recently garnered attention, if any.

Also, the concept does not demand a formal training- like architecture or engineering. Instead, locals get trained by their forefathers, in some places, it happens to be an ancestral practice.

Another fascinating feature of many vernacular architecture structures is their level of sustainability and nature-adaptability. Not only do these structures surprisingly withstand local climate, but many of these pass the test of time, standing intact across decades and even centuries.

Other influential features include:

  • availability of resources
  • availability of skilled labour
  • community skills
  • culture
  • traditional ways
  • beliefs
  • Historic significance
  • Local techniques & technical skills

Examples of Indian vernacular architecture

Some common examples of Indian Vernacular architecture are:



Bhonga : It belongs to the desert areas of Rajasthan and Kutch. Owing to the searing heat, a cooler interior is what the locals seek. And to attain this, the vernacular concept begins right from its circular shape. Also, with thick mud walls, thatched roof and use of local products for surface finishes, it is amazingly climate responsive.  Also, wooden frames placed across each other ensures ventilation. For interior decoration, a lot of mirror work is seen as wall finish.

  • Naalukettu : A naalukettu is core to the  local heritage of Kerala and certain parts of South India, owing to the tropical climate. Typically the layout of living spaces is around an enclosure- an internal courtyard (muttam). With large windows, pitched roof, terracotta roof tiles and adequate number of openings, it makes the humidity bearable. Another important aspect is the presence of granary storage concept, due to paddy cultivation.


  • Zawlbuk House : Traditional to the tribal of Mizoram, this vernacular architecture is a very simple house. It is made of thick bamboo mats, split bamboo poles (for partitions) and thatched roof. This structure is used for teaching tribal traditions to the youth. In the Northeast part of India, thatched roof, bamboo frames, hay  and straw are integral materials to construction.
  • Laterite structures : Common to the coastal areas of Kerala and Gujarat, laterite is the obvious substitute to a modular brick in many areas for vernacular construction. Not only is it easily available, but is also one of the ideal materials for sustainable load bearing structure.

Vernacular architecture is finally beginning to get its due, and rightly so. After all, it makes absolute sense to be live as a part of natural ecology and vegetation- harmoniously.