BENGALURU: Being an architect and seeing structures getting dilapidated triggered a responsibility in Gayathri Shetty to document the architecture of the Tulunadu region, which took the form of her new book Ancestral Homes of Tulunadu (Rs 5,000).
Just looking at the fading structures led Shetty to come up with a plan. “When traditional elements or architecture is used, you see a wealth of information and technology in the construction of structures of yesterday,” says Shetty, who adds that a lot of the homes in Tulunad follow the Indian traditional principles, which are similar both in Karnataka and Kerala owing to climatic conditions. “Due to the monsoons, you have areas which become spaces for multi-use, from drying clothes to staff having their meals...these are extra spaces that you don’t see in houses today,” she adds.
Being part of the community, the knowledge of the history of the houses came from close quarters. For example, most of the traditional houses, including Shetty’s grandmother’s, were about 14-feet high. “Sometimes during monsoons, the water level used to come up to 12 feet, around a foot or so below the house. It used to be a big event because many people from low-lying areas took shelter in the house,” says Shetty.
The initial research of the book took around nine months but the whole process took around five years and the team lived in the region to study the structure up close. “Initially we were ambitious and wanted to research 100 homes, but then we finally decided on 14 homes,” says Shetty, adding, “We were in touch with some of the family members to give us information and personal anecdotes.”
Shetty points out one of the major problems of maintaining these houses is finances. “An issue with ancestral houses is looking after them. With many owners involved, this can be a challenge,” she says.