Monday, August 17, 2009

Padmanabhapuram palace,Tamilnadu

Padmanabhapuram Palace complex continue to be the best example of traditional Kerala architecture, and some portions of the sprawling complex are also the hall mark of traditional Kerala style building art. As a follow up to my earlier blog article, let me take you all, into a journey through the palace complex way different from the usual route which discusses the decor and the interiors.

This journey is enriched by the spatial variations in the built and open spaces of the palace complex emerging through the sense of enclosure and intensity of light.

The Padmanabhapuram Palace which I have seen is a Design ensemble in itself,each item being a Decor element,carefully picked and placed.

Here what caught my attantion the most was the syntax of Spaces. One space leading into the other and into another beautifully.....the merging almost seamless....

The modern term used for designing of ‘Spaces’ is spatial design. This term encompasses both interior and exterior design as integral parts of this 3-dimensional design activity.

“Space” is a notional phenomena which shapes and exists by the context. Space making is a sum total of the time and space combination. Space over time is not the same. Similarly time over different space is also not the same.

This constant juxtaposition of time over space is the essential premise of Indian Architecture.

The developed elements l found in this built work: a configuration of space as discrete volumes, complex ambient light and shadow, a celebration of mass and structure, the use of materials which have both modernist and archaic qualities, monumental openings uncompromised by frames, courtyards wrapped around buildings.” 

1.Built-Unbuilt space configuration:

Transcending time and space, good architecture remains communicative and interactive all
the while through its spatial qualities. These spaces possess the qualities to establish rapport
with the on looker and condition his perception, independent of their cultural background.

Timeless, ever pervading architecture rely on more fundamental attributes of space making

ranging from
  • approach and movement,
  • scale and proportion,
  • quality of light and shade or
  • the relationship of the built with the unbuilt.

The visual proportioning of spaces and skilful arrangement of elements provide everchanging
frames of visual compositions through perspectival effects and their strategic visual alignments while one moes through them.

The courtyards of the palace complex are masterpieces in their own right with the buildings enveloping it. The movement through the complex involves one to step out into the open,and then enter the built volume and then again step out and move through the courtyard.

This is a pattern of configuration of spaces one finds in almost all traditional built complexes of Kerala.

2.The Play of Light and Shadows: Light and shadows play a game of Yin and Yang in this serene place almost giving its inner rooms a magical aura. The contrast between the harsh tropical sunlight outside and the soothing light that penetrates into the inner
 spaces through the ubiquitous palisade windows is used to create this almost theatrical effect.

This play of light through integration of unbuilt spaces with the built volumes become mutual counterpoints which help in defining the spatial hierarchies and territories in terms of personal and public realms. The perception of enclosure is further reinforced by the decreasing intensity of light.

The brightness of light subdues asone progresses further deeper into space making the space progressively vertical, cosier and confined. The timelessness is attributed to its freshness offered by the variations of visual frames as well as the integration of light/nature where the sun is the constant variable as it changes position and intensity from morning to evening and from summer to winter.

The conditions of outdoors inherently not remaining same changes consistently making the same space appear different and fresh all times. This makes the static object change with changing outdoor conditions through sun. This inherent dynamism in the character of the spaces is something to learn from. Don't know how many of our modern edifices really deal with such a simple yet powerful tool- manipulating natural light to create a dynamic space.

                 Light through the dormer and palisade windows into the durbar hall
                       The natural light filtering throught he windows in the dining hall
                                   Natural light in the Kitchen
                                   Natural light in the inner rooms,notice,they make a pattern
    The Shadows of the jaalis,its interesting to see them,they add ambience to the decor and style

3.The Transitional spaces:

Transitional spaces that are neither inside nor out but flows in between the two,such as a verandah, a covered terrace or a corridor are important connectors between the open spaces and the built spaces. The bands of windows,verandhas,corridors,pillared connectors between buildings, spaces close to the house are all a part of the experience before it merges into the open space of the courtyard. These enable the air to freely circulate in the building,offer views through and the past the building.
                    The Long balcony in the summer palace and guest house
                                      Closed walkway to the other side of the palace                                                 Open verandah with pillars
                                                   Open courtyard in the house
           Long walkway,balcony in front of the rooms or to the side of it

4.The simplicity vs complexity in the layout: The covered walkway within which the end is not at first seen where “you are always surprised, keep observing new things”. It is this simplicity in the layout which translates into the beauty of the complex. But however simple it may look in plan, moving through the spaces and retracing one's way is not so easy as it thinks

                                                    Open walkways and pillars
                                   Courtyard surrounding the houses
                                   One open courtyard opens to the other
                                    Open window  from the side of the kitchen overlooking the pond
                               Back view of the palace,walkway,lawn,pond ,way to the summer palace

5. The 'Vernacular character

The vernacular character is reflected in the architecture of the complex.The sloping tiled roofs arranged and carefully placed at angles reflect the mountain scapes which surround the palace.

                                                      Front view of the palace

                                                Side view of the Palace

6.Materials: Locally available raw materials are the ingredients and when clubbed with exotic 'recipies' for the detailing.
                                                          Main Durbar Hall

Seasoned wood for the ceiling and pillars,Mangalore tiles for the roofs,Wood for the furniture,Black shiny floors made from a combination of egg white,jaggery lime,charcoal and river sand,carved mahogany ceilings,colored mica windows.

Four poster Medicinal Bed for the Maharaja,Side table to keep the sword and a chair in wood.
Big Serving Vessels in the dining hall.Found in the Dining hall,where the curries are made from the kitchen and poured before serving,made of raw cut granite stone and polished accordingly.
                                        A distant view of the Giant serving Vessels.

6.Climatological response:
The architecture language is a response to the climate of the region.

                                           Dormer windows around courtyard
Rainfall-Sloping Roofs,The windows overlooks a courtyard ,courtyard allows natural ventilation and the womenfolk to feel the fresh air.
                                                Jaalis on Windows to allow circulation of air
                         Big Doors to allow ventilation,since the region is quite humid.

I think I have truly taken all into the decor of an era,the Ancient Kerala Decor style,which is at present in trend.
 I do hope at one time of my life I will be able to reciprocate the finest in decor and construction which I have noticed 
Hope you all did enjoy the time in that era...
Will bring lots more later....

All pictures are protected and copyrighted ones.PL dont steal images.If found is punishable.If you need images .All copyrighted images of Lakshmi Arvind and self clicked.


  1. Wow, what an impressive study of the palace. I love the stark shadows and the earthiness of the architecture. It all feels very organic and natural.

  2. Thanks Shalini dear.Thank you for the patience you took to read the decor study.Its my study,the way i saw it and i hope people read it and will like it.

  3. Padmanabhapuram Palace belongs to a bygone era in my mind. A time when I was small and tagged along with groups of adults who sighed over its beauty. It's been ages since I've been there and your post makes me wish I was there again.
    I always wondered whether that bed worked!
    I read a very interesting book by Mridula Jose called 'An Eclectic Juxtaposition' about the architecture of Kerala. I think you would enjoy it.

  4. I like the way you shared your observations and pictures. lovely blog.

  5. Lovely pics. There is something a little spooky and eerie about the palace, imagine all the stories hidden in those shadows.


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