Where do we find a sunlight breaker, natural air conditioner, money saver, privacy provider and pattern-based wall decorator all rolled into one? In all probability, the search would end up in a Jaali wall.
A Jaali, (meaning “net”) was an important element in Indian architecture of yore with Indo -Islamic influence. The word refers to a nicely perforated ornate stone or latticed screen, usually with a striking geometrical pattern.
Evolution in India
Tracking jaalis in the Indian architecture, it is noted that Harappan architecture had no window openings.
With the arrival of Mughals, architecture transformed greatly. In Kashmir, local artisans, experts in wooden temple architecture carving, over generations began innovating new decorative elements.
A major contribution by the imperials was of the latticework called Pinjara, which was adopted by Himachali artisans of Rampur Bushahr.
Small human figures, foliage and animal figures were carved with delicate pinjara work. Hindu craftsmen, the Paharis carved, whereas Muslim craftsmen from Chiniot carved fine jaali work in Rajput style
Jaali became highly popular during Mughal rule; they were used as partitions, railings, ventilators, windows, outer walls etc. Influenced by European art they evolved to contain flowers and vegetation, evident in Red Fort of Shahjahanabad. “The Mughal response to European art was not slavish imitation but creative reinvention.”
Some essential facts
Jaali lowers the indoor temperature by compressing the air passing through the holes. Air, when compressed and released, becomes cool just like an air-conditioner. The diffusion of air occurs because of increase in velocity when passing through small holes in the screens. So, there is a good penetration of air indoors.
Jaali proves to be effective in hot dry and humid climate zones. Humid areas like Kerala and Konkan have larger holes with overall lower opacity than in the case of dry climate regions of Gujarat and Rajasthan. So, design and size of holes may vary, depending on the climate of the region.
Jaali provides good ventilation, cuts down and filters the sunlight and increases the movement of air for cross breeze.
It reduces the entry of direct sun rays, haze and glare without affecting the intensity of light and illumination. The result is you get subdued and soft light indoors. This is due to reduction of the total aperture area of the entire window into a number of small holes which are of same size or smaller than the thickness of of material it is built with. Voids of equal depth and height help reduce the glare and ingress.
Jaali is designed in such a way everything outside is visible through Jaali holes but from the outside, nothing is visible inside due to light difference. So, it is best suited for privacy and in the royal households, jaali is a common feature in the women’s quarters. Rajput and and Muslim royals adopted this as part of their style of architecture in Middle ages.
Jaali with small holes is a good replacement for glass windows because, it allows breeze, reduces haze and glare unlike glass windows. Jaali has aesthetic grace without compromising on privacy and utility.
Taking the present cases of jaali use ,many architects have re- interpreted the element of Jaali with different materials.
Laurie Baker used Jaali of bricks to create dynamic facades that brought in air by the effect of stack. Unlike traditional jaalis , brick jaalis did not require skilled labour for construction. The patterns and dimensions were constrained by the brick sizes.
An example of recent buildings is Sanjay Puri’s, office building in Jaipur. The building is enveloped on all sides by a concrete jaali supported on a steel framework, to perform its functions. Projections varying from 0.9m -1.5 m create an insulation space at every level where plants are grown.
The external heat is cut out as air is subjected to venturi effect. A sculptural quality to the façade has been lent by the jaali which is reminiscent of the past and establishes its connection to the present.
“72 screens” office building in Jaipur designed by Ar. Sanjay puri Brick jaali work by Ar. Lauri baker at C.D.S
Pearl academy of Fashion, designed by Morphogenesis in 2008 is a union of traditional and modern, derived from traditional elements of the dry desert climate of Rajasthan. The built form was designed to become an core part of students life with the jaali double skin 4 ft away serving the primary purpose of providing air, privacy , light. The configuration has been derived out of modern method of computational shadow analysis.
With advancements in technology and deviation from and loss of know how of traditional architecture, Mechanical air-conditioning has become the easiest solution for creating comfortable interiors. It is difficult for people now to imagine a life without them, but the degradation of the environment caused by ozone depletion and persisting problem of global warming, it is be advisable to look back at passive cooling techniques for inspiration. An understanding of jaalis is essential to effectively use them in the design to ensure greater thermal comfort.
By: Ar. Jaspreet kaur
Senior Faculty: Interior Architecture Design
IVS School of Design