Sunday, April 17, 2011


By Bhakti Shah

We had a structural project for ARC 532 History of Non-Western Architecture. In this project we had to select a structural detail from any Non Western Architectural buildings. I had chosen a unique fenestration detail from traditional Indian Architecture.

This particular fenestration detail is known as "Jharokhas" which is found widely in the western part of India. It is a type of overhanging - enclosed or semi enclosed which was widely used in not only in traditional Indian architecture but also in Islamic Architecture. In Islamic Architecture it is known as 'Mashrabia'. It has monumental scale and make it as a outstanding architectural character. It mainly represents two architectural styles– Mughal Architecture (Combination of Islamic, Persian and Indian Architecture) and Rajasthani Architecture (Western Indian Architecture). It is most distinctive type of facade decorated with intricate lattice work. It is a projecting window from the wall, in an upper storey, overlooking a street, market, court or any other open space.

It is supported on two or more brackets or corbelling, has two or more pillars or pilaster, balustrade and a projecting chajjah as roof. Sometimes it is closed by jaalis - perforated openings for peeping out on the streets at the same time maintaining privacy of inside. It is more formal and ornamental than English or French “oriel” . Material used for these Jharokhas are mostly sandstone, marble and wood. In contemporary buildings these windows are used in concrete and brick. Jharokha is used due to the aesthetic appearance, climatic aspects, elevation treatment , privacy to allow royal ladies to observe everyday life in the street below without being seen, since they had to observe strict 'purdah' (face cover) as a viewing platform.

Jharokhas are mainly used in Palaces, Havelis (mansion type structure) and Temples. They brings filtered light into the indoor space. Being a dusty and harsh climate within the area, it brings channeled cool air through its openings and jaalis. Direct wind flow inside the building is not desirable. These openings are shaded with projections covered all around with perforations allows cooling of air. It also helps to shade the building fa├žade. This module was used in hot and dry climate zone. Purpose of minizing the area of building surface exposed to sun is achieved using this module in repetitive manner. Covering outer layer of the building facade with these kind of projecting overhangs , jaalis and small openings in it works for ventilation purpose. During the day, outer layer gets heated and radiated to immediate environment. When the building have only one layer. Building gets heated up early by transmitting the sun rays directly to primary spaces. But organizing secondary spaces adjacent to outer layer it acts as transitional space keeping comparative cooler inside the primary spaces. Heat enters the secondary space will dissipate in the streets with respected openings in secondary space before it enters inside. For the structural project, a basic module of Jharokha is selected. Its skeleton is outlined to make the basic body of the architectural element. Its main drapery is its intricate carving which makes it an outstanding architectural character.

Now a days this type of fenestration detailing is being adapted for the balcony overhangs in current urban fabric due to its climatic feasibility.


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