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Chapter 3: A Pol House

3
A Pol House
3.1

Planning of a Typical Pol House

The wooden traditional houses of Gujarat an urban phenomenon conforms to a general character in
their organisation and articulation i.e. narrow frontage representing composite wooden facade and
sharing of common walls on longer sides; defined spatial components; bonding-timber construction; and
densely articulated within confined settlement pattern known as pols an empirically evolved labyrinths.
These characteristics were the product of cultural pattern of time, caste division, male-female equation,
exigencies of joint family, social, and religious, also contingent to climatic and structural requirement.

Fig. 3.1: Ground floor plan of a pol house


Source: CEPT Library
The primary spaces of the house were identified by particular names; not in conjunction with their
allocated functions. Proceeding from the street-to-house level, the entrance is defined by a narrow raised
plinth with steps known as otla or otta (front verandah) a prelude to the threshold of the house known as
umro (innermost room).

Fig. 3.2: The otla


Source: Author
Department of Architecture, SPA, Bhopal

Fig. 3.3: The paniyaro, puja and the tanka in the chowk
Source: Author
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Chapter 3: A Pol House

Otla a communication zone between outsider and the house residents encompasses a row of columns
supporting the wooden facade which is worked out in accordance with the length of wooden member is
varied in terms of its treatment and its width subjected to the status of the owner. Its elemental nature was
highlighted by its carving which made it ornate and exquisite in beauty as an image builder for the
house. The otla leads to a buffer space mainly used as reception room and thereby nominated as baithak
(sitting room), which was directly associated to the open-to-sky interior courtyard known as chowk a
nodal point linking all the spaces together. The interior facades flanking the chowk were richly carved like
the frontal facade, befitting the main centre of the house. The chowk was attached to the rasodun
(kitchen), paniyaro (place for storing drinking water), and the puja (prayer room) all three being
considered as sacred spaces. The chowk, therefore apart from acting as transitional and functional focus,
also represented the religious centre of the dwelling. Parsal was a semi-open space connecting chowk and
the living areas like ordo or ordoo, which was the last room, furthermost from the street and thus the most
private room. They open in the chhindi (a narrow rear street) by the means of small windows that
facilitated cross ventilation. The function of these rooms was for both storage and sleeping.

Fig. 3.4: The chowk


Source: Gujarat tourism

Fig. 3.5: The chowk, upla chowk, parsal with orado at the end
Source: Mahesh Kumar

The need for privacy in the business transaction (mainly in North Gujarat) led to the development of
divankhanu, on the upper floor, which ultimately became sign of aristocratic and symbolized high status
and wealth of the owner. The roof of these kind of houses were invariably sloping covered with naliyas
(clay tiles), but some areas were also left flat (known as agasi) and are used for sleeping on summer nights
and also for several domestic activities.
A pol would get organised generally by people of the same social group or community. Thus the city
characteristically grew very organically into a dense built fabric reflecting not only the culture of the local
people but also the climate it was set in. Pols can be considered as neighbourhoods with strong response
to the climate of Ahmedabad. Since they have grown up organically they respond to the social and
cultural life of the Amdavadies and also of their economic conditions.

Department of Architecture, SPA, Bhopal

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Chapter 3: A Pol House

Fig. 3.6: Section of a pol house


Source: CEPT Library

3.2

Architectural Elements in a Pol House

In Ahmedabad wooden construction was preferred to stone masonry which was common in western India
during medieval times. The structural system for all dwellings was timber post or beam. The wooden
skeleton had brick and lime masonry infill along the party-walls as well as the partition wall of the orado.
Most other partition was in timber. The roof was usually hipped with timber purlins and clay tiles. Despite
the party-walls, it is observed that the timber structural frames of individual houses remained independent.

Fig. 3.7: The roof stone slab resting on timber purlins


Source: Author

Department of Architecture, SPA, Bhopal

Fig. 3.8: The faade of a pol house


Source: Mahesh Kumar

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Chapter 3: A Pol House

All exposed faades, i.e. the street faade and the chowk faade, were in timber with exquisite carvings
depicting religious symbols, floral motifs and geometric patterns. In general, horizontality was stressed
over verticality. Modes of timber construction and choice of timber for various elements were based on
treatises such as Raj Vallabh, Brihasamitha, and the Parimanamanjari. The standardization of building
components led to the uniformity of the scales and proportion, resulting in an overall cohesiveness of the
residential fabric of the pols.

Fig. 3.9: Details of the front faade


Source: Naqsh published by CEPT

Department of Architecture, SPA, Bhopal

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