Have we forgotten our lessons?
Let us at least feel happy that composite walls have been rediscovered and are gaining popularity
Attractive: Indoor and outdoor walls can have different textures
Everything in nature requires protective external cover, just like our own building walls. The difference is simple – nature has designed millions of plant and animal skins while we have only a handful of wall solutions.
Let us look at a dry coconut, complete with its inner shell and thick outer protective layer. The outer skin is so hard it requires sharp tools to peel it off. After we de-husk it, we see the inside being soft and fibrous, in total contrast to the outside finish and surface. Let us peel a banana, scrape a cucumber, study animal skins, or cut a pumpkin.
The story is the same, with the outside skin designed for harsh external environment for survival, while the internal surface is finished simpler, relating more to the soft pulpy contents inside. There is no logic that demands both to be same. Instead, the inside and outside being different is the logic.
Now let us look at our own building walls. Nearly all that we build today has a wall plastered and painted both sides, almost similar but for the type of paint. Incidentally, architecture from the past exhibited at least some variety. The grand palaces of Rajasthan, all built with stones outside, did not have stones visible inside. They were smooth finished, with stucco, niches, mirror, paintings or anything else that the room wanted. The rural houses in northern Karnataka have walls in stone, built with minimum masonry joints, but inside finished with mud plastering. Laterite walls left exposed are a common scene in the vernacular architecture of the west coast, which are rendered with lime mortar inside. Fort walls were constructed with stone on both sides.
Off with colonial ideas
With all this background, why have we forgotten the lessons from the past? We can cite many of them including the imposition of uniform ideas from the colonial powers. Leaving it all aside, today, we can feel happy that composite walls have been rediscovered and are gaining popularity.
It is building a wall with one type of material or finish outside and another type inside, both decided as per the needs of respective contexts.
Over the last 15 years, our firm has explored numerous combinations of singular or composite walls with soil cement blocks, granite size stone, normal table molded bricks with plastering, wire cut exposed bricks, hollow clay blocks, Besser cement blocks, hollow jail or perforated walls, stone slab walls, rat trap bond walls and such others.
Right decision needed
Each material and construction type needs to be judiciously finalised, based upon location, cost, heat gain, elevation aesthetics, maintenance and the desired final finish.