'Pallak: A Journey to the Ancient Heritage of Kerala' by Uru Consulting
Uru Consulting's journey with their project “Pallak” started where the youngest son of a family in Kottakkal, Kerala, received a plot spanning two acres along with the ancestral house in his name after partition.
The word Pallak in Malayalam means Palanquin, a covered litter carried by an even number of bearers. Uru Consulting's journey with their project “Pallak” started where the youngest son of a family in Kottakkal, Kerala, received a plot spanning two acres along with the ancestral house in his name after partition. As he approached Team Uru, the client’s lack of interest in living in a 12000 square feet house of antiquity was inter-twined with the nuclear family’s perception of an urban lifestyle. Nevertheless, he did not want to let go of the property.
The conundrum was to be solved by a wonderful idea: Considering the value of medical tourism in Kottakkal, a place renowned for its Ayurvedic heritage, transform the property into an Ayurvedic resort. Thus, with a stringent budget, the project was to be materialized in two phases: 1 acre for each phase.
A “Nalukettu”: Home to Hospitality:
The multipurpose amphitheater was intended not only to thrill the visitors with enthralling performances of Kerala art forms, but also to calm them with Yoga training. The treatment area and related amenities were conceived inside the “Nalukettu”. It was an arduous process turning the traditional house that basked in its antiquity and rooms that did not welcome even light in, to a hospitable space for patients and other guests. Safder (Principal Consultant and Designer, Uru) talks about the challenges and how Team Uru tackled them working on the interior of the “Nalukettu”. “One of the main constraints was the narrow rooms without either proper ventilation or bathrooms. We provided attached bathrooms for every room. When we found defects in the timber structure, we solved it by using girders. With advanced technology of waterproofing, the dampness issue was covered. Sometimes, we also merged two adjacent rooms to make a spacious and well-lighted room.
Small doors, and steps also were challenges considering the function of the Ayurvedic treatment. Ramps were created in order to make the movement of wheelchairs possible. During the renovation and landscaping, we were specific about keeping the contours unchanged, and gave pathways of laterite stones connecting different levels. Amphitheatre is the only exception where we enabled steps as part of the design.” Even the unused, eerie attic was worked out into a fairy-tale-like space by giving it a proper access through stairs. The plumbing was another hard work that found fulfilment and so was replacing all the interlock tiles with laterite ones with the only exception of tandoor stones as stepping stones. One can sense how Team Uru envisaged Pallak as a home to hospitality.
Villas: Mirroring the Earthen Past
Kerala’s traditional architecture is a blend of Dravidian and Vedic structures, greatly influenced by its maritime partners- Chinese, Arabs, Europeans. It is deeply rooted in the elements of earth. The villas constructed in the plot, outside the treatment area mirrors this ancient structure of the ancestral house. The walls of laterite stones with un-plastered, exposed finish, the clay tiles of terracotta from 'Chalakkudy' for the floors and roofs, and a colour palette that embodies rusticity and earthiness, have contributed a great deal in mirroring the poetic beauty and the earthen past of Kerala Architecture.
Landscaping: A Faunal Narrative
As Team Uru visited the plot for the first time, the area was covered with only some coconut trees. Ever-committed to their green initiatives, Team Uru changed Pallak’s faunal narrative into a green lush of tropical plants and trees, especially the ones with medicinal qualities according to Ayurveda. It is also carefully landscaped in such a way that it requires less maintenance.
Phase II: Pallak’s Journey Continues
One thing Pallak can boast of is its budget-friendliness. In terms of opulence, it has completely done away with luxurious embellishments. Team Uru has maintained the place just as it used to be, an old ancestral home and its orchard, with quite an unassuming air, while still making it functional and recreational in so many ways. They are currently working on the second phase of the project, in which a restaurant is included. Pallak’s journey continues. What else can offer a more royal journey than a Palanquin?