Architect N Mahesh has crafted his symbol of love, a bell museum, which also doubles up as an architectural wonder.
KOCHI: Architect N Mahesh has crafted his symbol of love, a bell museum, which also doubles up as an architectural wonder. Fashioned out of timber, with a traditional Kerala roofing and glass skylight ceiling, the structure sits next to his house. The insides burst with an exhaustive collection of bells, all painstakingly collected by his wife Latha Mahesh. The museum was built so that the ever-growing collection of Latha could find a home. And how!
Over 7,000 bells collected from 91 countries sit comfortably in the museum built using Canadian wood. Mahesh says it is a cradle to cradle construction, which involved creating the structure from the wood sourced from the sustainably managed and certified forests in British Columbia, Canada. A huge Indian bell invites you in; it rests as the centrepiece. All the walls have glass cabinets in which a range of bells are encased.
An advocate of timber architecture, Mahesh says the thrust should be on using sustainable wood. “Sustainable green timber is reforested timber. It follows a cradle-to-cradle protocol, rather than a cradle-to-graveyard technique,” says Mahesh.The building’s interior features tongue and groove (T&G) panelling made in Canada using western hemlock wood while the exterior is made from rough-sawn western red cedar. The museum has a panoramic sunroof. No concrete has been used to build the 1,000 sq-ft structure. “We wanted a lightweight structure by using softwood. It is just 1/6th of the weight of its equivalent in concrete,” says Mahesh who has over 15 years of experience in timber architecture.
Each bell has its own story. The collection had its start some 30 years ago when Latha collected her first bell- a traditional pooja bell from a local antique shop. “But back then, I didn’t think I would turn into a bell collector,” Latha recalls. During her first foreign trip to the UK, she added a Wedgewood bell to her collection, obtained from the Royal Museum.
“It reached a point that wherever I went, I could only see bells,” says Latha. Soon, the hunt for bells began.Bells in all shapes such as train, post office, vegetables, animals and birds, butterflies and so on dot the private museum in Thiruvananthapuram. “We have travelled to 91 countries in the last 15 years. I have souvenir bells from almost all the places I have visited. I started procuring some from eBay as well,” says Latha.
Her unique collection includes one that dates back to 1945, a bell made from aluminium sourced from the body of a German aircraft which was shot down in the Second World War. Latha’s collection also includes bells themed on church and Christmas, mothers, wedding, clowns, Disney, the Vatican, witches, brides and so forth. The newest bell she has added is one made from arcon. “A lot of hard work goes procuring each bell. When I am on a trip, I am always on the lookout for bells. The target is to collect 10,000,” adds Latha. Students as well as people who want to about know about the bells can visit the museum after reacing out to the couple.