The tower houses
The structure is built from reinforced concrete. Square pillars on a square grid connected by hunched beams form strong earth quake resistant frames, holding up concrete floors.
The walls in the framework are made from plastered local brick or large teak wood and glass elements. The wooden elements are protected at each level by roofs built using palm wood and covered with roofing tiles from the small factory on the other side of the river.
At the upper floor a large wooden roof with wide protruding eaves covers the building. The rafters are laid out in a fan shaped pattern, its purlins supported by hinging columns made from steal, a kind of umbrella sheltering the whole structure.
The building consists of a ground floor, two upper floors and the roof floor.
A suite is found on each floor consisting of two bedrooms, a bathroom and a hall with a covered terrace, which can serve as a spacious living room.
On the ground floor a private garden is accessed from this living room. On the upper floors the view over the wide river landscape becomes a part of the suite.
The roof is left open as the most valuable space.
Shutters with brass mesh protect the rooms if needed but the air is allowed to move freely.
The bedrooms can be closed off with glass windows if needed to use the air condition.
They can slide to the side if the room´s resident prefers the gentle breeze from the river.
Semipermeable layers have been a common feature in Kerala´s architecture for a long time.
The architectural logic of the tower houses is influenced by two diverse types of Kerala´s architectural landscape.
First the generic modern concrete building: In principle a simple structure of post and beam with an infill of masonry, plastered from the inside and often the outside.
Finally the building might be decorated with luminous colours and varying shapes in plaster or aluminium panels.
After a few years the umbrella might be added too, a steel structure covered with corrugated sheets protecting the house from the monsoon and the blazing sun.
It is a very efficient and flexible type of building which starts very simple, almost minimalistic and might become very complexand rich thanks to this flexibility and the local genius of embracing deviations from the rule.
The second ancestor is the traditional building of the Malabar coast with its strong and defining walls, hidden from the outside by layers of roofs and wooden additions, oriels, bays and covered balconies.
It is an arrangement that is obviously as suited to the climate as it is beautiful.
Although we think to have stayed true enough to the contemporary means of building construction to avoid the clichés of hospitality sector “heritage architecture”, we are proud to embrace the old art of timber construction in Kerala.