The influence of other cultures on Traditional Architecture of Kerala

The mosque architecture of Kerala exhibits none of the features of the Arabic style or those of the Indo-Islamic architectures of the imperial or provincial school in North India. The reason for this was that the work of mosque construction was done by the same local artisans under instructions of the Muslim religious heads. Later influences were from the Dutch, Jews, Portuguese and the Europeans (British & French). A Portuguese architect Thomas Fernandez is credited with the construction of forts, warehouses and bungalows at Kochi, Kozhikode and Kannur. The projecting balconies, Gothic arches and cast iron window grill work are a few of the features passed on to Kerala architecture by the Portuguese construction. The evolution of the Church architecture of Kerala springs from two sources – the first from the work of Apostle St. Thomas and the Syrian Christians and second from the missionary work of European settlers.

By 18th century British style was being popularised in the land as a result of a large number of modern constructions directly carried out by the British rulers and the penchant for Western architecture by the princely class and the rich. The work was guided by officers and engineers whose knowledge of the architectural style was essentially restricted to the classic books on renaissance architects – Vitruvious, Alberti and Palladio and executed by indigenous knowledge of traditional masons and carpenters. In a sense it was a compromise of antique craft and neo-classical construction needs.

The Greek and Roman antiquity was considered as the richest heritage of the west and the same was emphasised in the classic orders of pillars with triangular pediments, arches and domes for public buildings, town halls, hospitals, railway stations, colleges.

Perhaps the adaptations of European style to the climatic needs and the synthesis with traditional style are best seen in the bungalow architecture. The comfort requirement in the hot humid climate prompted the European settlers to go in for buildings with large rooms with high ceiling with veranda all around.

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