The roof offers one of the most important variations in house styles. It may be the difference between a modern style home and a traditional one. When we look at a house, we observe the basic shape as well as the roof. There are various types of roofs, such as Gable (high pitched) roof, Hip roof, Gable (low pitched) roof, Flat roof, Salt Box roof, Gambrel roof, and Mansard roof. Today, we focus on the Asian style of roof decoration.
Following the principles of feng shui, all Chinese buildings, from palace halls to farmsteads were oriented on a North-South axis, with the main entrance in the southern wall. China's most ancient constructions were built of wood standing on stone platforms. The high, tiled, hipped roofs were supported by wooden pillars and elaborate bracketed eaves.
During the Ming period (1368-1644) symbolic motifs were incorporated into Chinese roofs. Aside from the decorative, these features served both social and magical functions. The tail of the imperial dragon (the kind you see in the processions) were used in ancient palaces to represent the authority of the state.
Certain regions in other Asian countries, such as Luang Phabang, Malacca, Goa, Joypur, Chandan Nagar etc sport different styles. For example, Luang Phaban, the ancient capital of Laos, was once a French colony, and the bungalows there reflect the French influence, with their hipped roofs supported by heavy teakwood frames. The single storeyed white-washed bungalows with open terraces and cross-grained black timber railings are a throwback of the French Colonial period.
Now we look to our own countryside houses. Chhan, tin and tiles are popular in Bengal. Roof tiles are also popular in Malaysian and Indonesian bungalows and villas. Tiles are generally used for covering roofs, floors and walls or other objects such as tabletops. Roof tiles are designed mainly to keep out rain and are traditionally made from locally available materials such as clay or slate. Modern materials such as concrete and plastic are also used and some clay tiles have a waterproof glaze.
Leaf-frond or chhan roofs are still prevalent in rural Bangladesh, although tin roofs with wooden frames are becoming more popular. Those who can afford it, go for those stylish carved wooden borders or shades for such houses.
Urban décor, like urban life, is designed for efficiency, rather than whimsy. Even so, we can bring some small, refreshing changes into an apartment building. A tiny room with a tiled roof, or a small thatch corner with lots of plants, fern, creeper, herbs, water features, hanging lights and wind-chimes altogether in the roof can provide us with a much needed getaway.
NAZNEEN HAQUE MIMI
Photo Credit: Tarik Sujat