Whoa Rafters!!!!!!

Nestled in a corner off Greenways road, near the entrance to Music College is a small coffee shop, called Coffee?, yes its called Coffee (with a question mark). Once one enters the place, apart from the space, what probably strikes one is the interior. The walls are painted in bright orange, and the roof has rafters, which have been painted in dull black. The orange and black combination gives the place a nice feel.

This building has Madras Terrace roofing, which originated according to my architect friend Shankar somewhere in South India; he is also as clueless as to how this method of roofing was names ‘Madras Terrace’. Being totally incompetent in describing, albeit a little bit technically what a Madras Terrace is, i asked SHankar to write a bit on what a Madras Terrace is, and he writes.

When one says vernacular architecture of the south, images of sloped roofs and projecting eaves come to the mind immediately. Let me outline the technical aspect of the roof, basically they are wooden rafters which support tiles. But when one wanted to build flat roof structures or buildings with more than a floor, a complex predicament presented itself. Thus sometime during the colonial era, a new technique was pioneered from madras to solve this problem. Its popularly known as the madras terrace roof, one cannot be sure whether this technique was founded in madras but one can be sure that it originated in the south.

Madras terrace roof is nothing but wooden rafters running along the shorter side of the rooms. Their Bearing is the same as the depth of the beams, which usually is a bit more than 4.5 inches. The wooden rafters of the sloped roof are translated in horizontal direction. The slab of brick and lime mortar are cast on these rafters .A three course diagonal brick course is layed with each course in alternate direction. Thus the slab ends up being very thick.
Today the thicknesses of the slabs are proving to be the reason behind unintended, ill-thought modifications which are leading to the destruction of a large number of old buildings like the Rippon Building. The large slab thickness allows extra toilets in the offices of important government officials to be added. In turn these toilets bring in unprecedented amount of moisture which affects the life of the building.

When one enters a building and discovers the madras terrace roof, it immediately gives a sense of history attached to the space around.

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