Evolution in Spatial Planning : A parallel with our ancestral homes

Most homes today , boast of having a great amount of western influence in them . Not only, for their aesthetics in terms of design and treatment but also primarily in their spatial planning . From the inclusion of a laundry room to the proportion of a living room , we have a tendency to ape the western concept of homes in a bid to make our design more involved .

On further introspection , this evolved planning , in a co-incidental fashion bears a startling similarity with our very indigenous ancestral homes !! Be it in their functionality or layout planning the resemblance is glaring .

Barring aside almost a century or half of design ,which I consider to be the dark ages of design ,  the comparison lies with the homes  prior to this period .

Lets have a look at some of the latest trends in comparison with our ancestral homes:

  1. Courtyard concept : Most ancestral homes revolved around a central courtyard . These courtyards , served multi faceted uses . They not only kept the wind circulation going( crucial to our weather conditions) , they also added vitality to the house with its abundance of light ,also at the same time keeping the spatial planning simple and uncluttered with all spaces placed around the courtyard .8a93115ad912f049d3fe83fc595301f5

    In new age homes , the central courtyard is back with a contemporary twist to it . These courtyards come in the form of internal gardens or waterbodies , which not only add to the aesthetics of the home but also do serve the exact same purpose of their earlier counterparts .


2. High roofs/ higher ceiling heights  :

Our ancestors escaped heat with the tried and tested method of having high roofs or ceilings . In addition to adding volume to the space , they cope better with our climatic conditions .

The sloping roofs also did have a vent in them to let the hot air escape out , a mock version of a skylight . 


The above images show the high ceilings enabling an ideal climatological solution . Over the years , due to various reasons the ceiling heights of homes have reduced to a standard height of 10 ' .

In a contemporary spin off, double height living rooms , bedrooms etc are the rage ! The double height spaces like their traditional counterparts add aesthetic value and yet aid in the escape of hot air .


3.Spatial organization :

Homes prior to a century had either dedicated store rooms for grains , household items etc or one huge room dedicated to storage . Over the years , living rooms and bedrooms grew in prominance and in size , while storage was relegated to a lower rung of the order .

In a completion of a circle , home owners of today insist on segregated storage spaces like a cloak room , grains store , household store etc.....even at the compromise of having tad smaller living rooms.

4. Services organziation :

We must all be aware of our ancestral homes having a huge backyards dedicated for mundane tasks like dishwashing ,clothes washing , 2 kitchens for ease of usage , so on and so forth .These spaces bought about a discipline in terms of tasks ,hence enabling better time management .

Again , in a bid to have larger than large living rooms ,in houses built a couple of decades ago ,daily chore areas would eventually get compromised as they weren't visible to the eyes of a visitor . Strangely , in a bid to adopt a western lifestyle , homes today have dedicated laundry rooms , utility rooms for dishwashing and most importantly 2 kitchens , a dry kitchen and a wet kitchen !!All in the name of discipline and time management .

5. Opening sizes / sizes of openings  :

In pre dark ages era, the boundaries between rooms were very vaguely classified , thereby enabling a more open plan . The openings , in the case of windows were large allowing more than adequate light and ventilation to the homes . All this, bearing also in the mind  climatological considerations for sizes and heights .

In the stages of evolution of design , windows became smaller and fewer . Rooms became more fortified in the name of privacy , in the process resulting in a more matchbox like plan .Today , more so from the past decade , in a wave of liberal minds owing to westernisation , our homes are also planned with a key ingredient : an open house plan !!


With the advent of technology and further innovations , plumbing and electrical sectors have undergone a sea of change ,whereas what do the above points say ? Are we out from the dark ages of design  ? Are we completing a circle of evolution to come back to the same point our ancestors started from ? Or are we aping the west regardless of ur roots and bearings ? 

To conclude, in my opinion , all of the above are true ..We have reached a point of contentment in a forward looking design by not looking backward but yet we have reached square one !

Sapna .C.S 

(The author is a practicing architect in Bangalore with a professional experience of over a decade , and a keen observer of international trends to indian context ) 



7 thoughts on “Evolution in Spatial Planning : A parallel with our ancestral homes”

  • Aarti Vaid

    Very well written Sapna ... Loved the way you have explained the striking similarities between the ancestral and the newer houses ??????

  • Ashutosh Ananth

    A very insightful article, the bridge you created with modern architecture to traditional architecture is phenomenal.

  • Pads

    Thats very well captured! "Moved forward to square one" is an interesting conclusion!
    Look forward to many morw such knowledge-share!

  • Apurva Nahata

    Very well written. The article reaffirms the scientific and aesthetic superiority of our ancient architecture. Great work Sapna Ma'am. It's a must read for people making or renovating their homes.

  • T D Prakash

    Nice article sapna. U hv enlightened us that the contemporary designs r old wine in new bottle. Very well articulated & parallel drawn are exemplary....make me feel much more patriotic & proud abt India
    Excellent vocabulary

  • Chidambar Rao

    Sapna, Very well written article. How I wish everyone follow these traditional concepts while building their home ! Which would really help them stay healthy with positive energy at home. Your comparison & explanation certainly will help people who are wanting to build their dream home.

  • venkata

    great artcle

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