I am interested in various interior architecture elements and do ongoing reading and writing about it. following is an artical which looks at varandah with different perspective. i hope you would enjoy reading it.
The verandah is observed as the most important architectural element in people's social life. Though at present, there are many different opinions with reference to its etymology, each of them has been found helpful to have more understanding of it in their own different ways.
This essay will not only focus on the various meanings of verandah, but also on various other issues like its spatial role in the both domestic & commercial spaces and cultural associations attached to it.
Verandah: The Word, its Meaning and History
To understand and find out about the roots and the meaning of the word verandah, while looking into various types of dictionaries here are some thought provoking findings:
As described in OED, the first meaning of verandah is: The word is originally introduced from India, where it is found in several native languages besides Hindi as baranda in Bengali, but appears merely an adaptation of Portuguese and older Spanish veranda (baranda) which is a railing, balustrade or balcony. This would be quite understandable as in the past; India had been constantly attacked and invaded by foreign civilizations ranging from Muslim, Dutch, Portuguese and English. Various different cultures were settled in India for a major course of time, each carrying native traditions and integrating them into an Indian culture. Indian architecture, an important component of the developing culture, was clearly a product of such forces. Intense architectural hybridisation of east and west has resulted into a definite architectural style of which veranda is one of the many new hybrid architectural elements.
The second and rather surprising meaning in OED is that in Australia and New Zealand verandah is a roof like structure built alongside of a building, especially one built over the pavement outside business premises. After going through various related information, it became clear that in Australia, in the nineteenth century, shopping streets were often lined with verandas, more as a protection against the sun than the rain. In some cases they were originally erected as part of a single operation. More typically, they were erected building by building, either as part of the original construction or as later additions. They either sloped or curved towards the pavement and occasionally contained a barrel-vaulted central arch. Shop verandas were usually single storey whereas hotels were frequently double or triple storey in harmony with floors of the building.
The third meaning in OED is: An open portico or light roofed gallery extending along the front, and occasionally other sides, of a dwelling or other building; frequently the front of a lattice – work, and erected chiefly as a protection or shelter from sun or rain. More over the same as in Chambers Dictionary of Etymology it is illustrated as a large porch and also described as a word of uncertain origin, but also related to Spanish baranda which is like said before railing, balustrade and defence barricade. The ultimate origin of this word is most probably European or perhaps from Latin barra - barrier.
So now as we see that this single word Verandah has something common or somewhat the same in the architectural elements like porch, portico, patio, terrace, balcony, gallery etc. In my academic and professional activities in interior design, these words have different meanings and so are their functions. So as to have more insightful understanding, the brief knowledge of its history or etymology is necessary. There are many different opinions and theories with reference to etymology of the word verandah, the following approach as found in Kahn, Renee and Ellen Meagher: Preserving porches, which starts with an evolution of a porch is I think most appropriate one.
The word "porch” originally derives from the Latin word porticus, or the Greek word portico, both of which signify the columned entry to a Classical temple. At the arrival of the Middle Ages, the porch came to represent a cathedral's vestibule, where worshippers could gather to socialise before and after the service. By Victorian times, the word "porch" became interchangeably used with the words veranda, piazza, loggia, and portico, each of which could signify individual meanings. From this period until the second half of the nineteenth century, the word "porch" itself most often described a small, enclosed vestibule or covered entrance. Historically, the original concept of a porch can be traced back to the overhanging rock shelters of prehistoric times. Yet, the first time that the front porch clearly appeared in the modern world was in Ancient Greece and Rome, whose dwellings often placed columned verandas as shaded walkways around an interior garden. Loggias appeared in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Italy to provide a shaded outdoor space for public buildings. [http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CLASS/am483_97/projects/cook/roots.htm]
It is rather surprising to know that in comparison to how the elements of architecture were defined in the past, at present in many countries they are defined by their scale, size and placement in the building. For example, as described in building regulation handbooks in countries like India and Spain a difference between a balcony and a veranda is defined as that a balcony is the cantilevered platform at the upper levels of the building and should not be more then six feet, while verandah should be a covered space with a roof at ground level. A terrace is usually on the top floor, which would be uncovered and is a roof slab. A porch is described as a cantilever acting as a shed and would be a get off point for visitors from their vehicle.
After analysing the etymology of the word verandah and its meanings now the focus of the essay will shift to various social and design issues associated with it.
Social & Cultural Significance:
The most prominent cultural significance of the verandah is its connection to nature and its surroundings. In many ways, the verandah represents the mirror image of a perfect family and social life. It is an outdoor living room, where the family would gather after finishing their daily activities. It is also found that in the countries with a hot and humid climate, verandah is the best place to be, where one is able to enjoy the cool air and have peaceful feeling with nature at the same time. The children would play games with their neighbourhood friends and their parents would sit in the verandah to get relaxed after hard days work and would discuss various matters that are of interest. Grandparents would get together with other people of the same age and talk about private and social issues. So verandah in these ways brings the community together.
As described in A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, veranda is “a place for some moods, some times of day, some kinds of friendship, a place to eat, a place to sit, to drink, to talk together, to be still, and yet outdoor”. Moreover it is a partly enclosed space outdoors but enough like a room so that people behave there as they do in rooms, but with the added beauties of the sun, and wind, and smells, and rustling leaves, and also the street.
In most of the Asian countries, verandah is first visual contact while entering the premises. It acts as a welcoming gesture to the visitors. Special and formal guests would be received at the main door and then taken to the main living or drawing room, while local merchants, postman milkman etc. are received and dealt with in verandah itself. Thus the way of receiving visitors are distinguished spatially according to the meaning and the role of the guest.
It is well observed that verandah is the safest place in any dwelling as it has direct visual link to the street outside. Houses that have a window adjacent to the main door, overlooking into verandah have and additional advantages of a complete view of the visitor and therefore they do not need to have a eye hole or security buzzer attached with the main door for the safety purpose.
Inside & Outside/ Private & Public:
The verandah stands at the point where the public space of the street meets with the private space of the home. While being in verandah one can be visually connected to both inside and outside at the same time. It offers choice of engagement with street life and private life. Though because of an enclosure of a roof, which can be supported by columns, gives a feeling of being inside. One could argue that exterior windows can also offer a similar kind of visual experience. But I have found out that they are simply not enough to satisfy this need. As windows usually occupy very small part of the wall and can only be used if person stands at the edge of the room. The view one can have from the window is like a two-dimensional photograph and is far less of depth and details.
As described in OED, the origin of the word Verandah in Latin is barra – a barrier or barricade. The ownership of a dwelling starts with the edge of the verandah and is a psychological barrier. When one is crossing that barrier it is expected that you have entered in the private realm of other and so you are subjected to its rules and regulations. In some cases edge of verandah is defined by baluster railing to have a controlled excess or approach to the building.
Verandah is the place where the building meets with the nature of mother earth. As described in Pattern Languages by Christopher Alexander, “we people find that our lives becomes satisfactory to the extent that we are rooted down to earth, in a touch with common sense about everyday things – not flying high in the sky of concept and fantasies”. In a sense, building finds it self strongly rooted or may I say bounded to the earth by the means of a verandah. In total contrast building without any such spaces the inside and outside are totally separated. There would be no way of being partly inside or outside. It is like building being and alien object from sky fallen on earth and feels totally out of context or lacking in touch with the surroundings. Veranda is the element connects the building to the earth around and it has been observed that most of the architects are found to design verandas deliberately to make boundary ambiguous, so to make it impossible to say when the building stops and earth begins and vies versa.
If looked at Semper’s point of view, mound is the element, which has many things in common with verandah. Apart from the logical reasons for getting a raised plinth in form of a verandah are to have protection against rainwater and insects, there are some symbolic meanings attached to it. For example in ancient time as house was observed as a temple of God and thus being sacred had to be distinguished from the surrounding ground. This same act is like giving a high spiritual status to a building by giving it a rise. In addition as in an Indian temple, surrounding built spaces would get more and more enclosed setting apart you from the material world. When reached at the end near the idol you are totally cut off from outside and so may have in-depth concentrated spiritual experience. Similarly in verandah where the building is distinguished from the ground as it is a raised platform, one enters in the realm of more focus place in comparison with outside and gradually when moved inside starts to have one to one dialogue with the things inside the house.
Case study: Japanese verandah
Built spaces in Japan are continuous, and Japanese architecture is created given into nature. Japanese space seeks to harmonise architecture and nature, to make them one, by enveloping nature in architecture and making architecture and nature equal partners.
The Japanese house has a most important feature that intermediates between inside and outside - The Engawa, which is a synonym of verandah in Japanese. It runs around the house as a projecting platform under the roof space. While it protects the interior from wind, rain, and, in the summer, the strong rays of the sun, it also functions as a place to entertain guests and as an entranceway from the garden into the house. In addition it takes on a wide various functions that are left unsolved in the usual plan of a series of rooms linked by interior passages.
The Japanese Verandah possesses its own meaning as an intermediary space, in addition to interior and exterior space. For example, beneath the roof space, the verandah is an interior space; but visually it is part of the exterior space and its surrounding, usually a garden. In my opinion this formation must have to do with the use of wood as the basic material in the construction of Japanese domestic architecture, which is a symbol of nature.
Japanese verandah is an intermediating space that permits communication among people at both a private and public level. It is a space free of the division of walls and does not always need to take the physical form of enclosure. Japanese verandah gradually unfolds interior spaces to the exterior and vice versa.
Yes, it is an element connecting inside-out, and left detailing to designer experimentation.
Yes Verandah is a design concept mostly used in East and least designed in west. Besides It distinguish iinside/outside, interior/exterior its also becoming a symbol of East/west. |
Westeren buildings are more stiff in a sence that person feel he shifts directly from public to private space, contrary to west, eastern building design concept still allow a connection between public and private space.
Madhav, Porches (covered entrances) and arcades, colonades (covered ways) have been around since Ancient Greece and Rome and used by the Egyptians.
Verandah comes from India as does the word "bungalow" (single storey building) and I think perhaps bungalow comes from "bung a low (building)". :)))