Back to Page Authors: Sriparvathy Unni, T. N. Salahsha

Keywords: breathing walls, building skin, facade treatment, Kerala Architecture, vernacular architecture

Abstract: From the dawn of creation, architecture not only functions as barriers against natural elements but also as iconic symbols of authority. Buildings became cultural markers wielding the power to segregate as well as unify civilizations. Eventually, architectural practices became more fixated on general notions of aesthetics rather than contextual relevance. Today, most sub-genres of the construction field are being outsourced. Building envelope remains as the last dominion of architectural authority. Hence, it is critical that architects must strive beyond mere aesthetics to advance the realm of envelope design. Building Skin(facade) is the physical interpretation of separation between indoor and outdoor-natural and artificial. Skin plays an integral role in reflecting complex relationships between architecture, culture, and the environment. The semantics of the construction sector is constantly evolving. This has resulted in a fusillade of neither culturally pertinent nor climatically appropriate structures; ultimately progressing to a bleak future of steel and glass skyline. India, being a country of a myriad of rich cultural heritage, is slowly losing its uniqueness. This paper focuses on addressing evolutionary changes faced by building skins in the context of Kerala-a vibrant southern Indian state. Building facades in Kerala represent a kaleidoscope of intricate wooden carvings, colorful murals, and rustic mud finishes, gradually being contemporized in style and planning. Through case studies of traditional and contemporary buildings, this paper highlights the importance of architecturally inventive Skin design to reinvigorate the cultural past and provide a meaningful connection between outdoor and indoor architectural design, combating climatic disparities of the region. Understanding the traditional relationship between architectural elements is essential in transforming meaningless Flat Façades to expressive Free Façades to breathe sense into spaces.