The built vernacular heritage is usually constructed regarding the interaction between the human being and the surrounding environment, whatever its type, that to be subjected to the social, economic, cultural, and climatic factors. In October 1999, International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) asserted through “Charter on The Built Vernacular Heritage” that,

 “The built vernacular heritage is a focus of contemporary life and at the same time a record of the history of society. It is the fundamental expression of the culture of a community, of its relationship with its territory and, at the same time, the expression of the world’s cultural diversity. Vernacular building is the traditional and natural way by which communities house themselves. It is a continuing process including necessary changes and continuous adaptation as a response to social and environmental constraints. (International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), 1999)”

In the same charter, the legislator clarified a significant pattern that “the appreciation and successful protection of the vernacular heritage depend on the involvement and support of the community, continuing use and maintenance (International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), 1999).

Regarding the former text of ICOMOS charter, we can recognize that built vernacular heritage spells out the intricate relationship between community, their needs  and the surrounded environment. Moreover, the majority of scholar has been asserted that we can know more about the community life through their architecture and the layout of their settlements (Gupta, 2016). In addition, the differentiated traditional settlement typology was gradually increased after the human race begins to gather in groups (Gupta, 2016). Consequently, my article will clarify the influences of community interactions on built vernacular heritage. Although I live in Cairo, through this article, I will exchange this perspective with Indian civilization and its traditional architectural heritage.

The influences of community interactions in India are clearly appear on the features of their traditional architectural dwellings or settlements such as terraces, pavilions, threshold and courtyards (Gupta, 2016). Article will be highlighted on the former feature which is considered one of important and common pattern in Indian traditional architectural heritage settlements.

Regarding the history of Indian built vernacular heritage, the architectural component “Courtyard” is considered so significant that it might play a role of sacrificial altar or a place for family marriage. Thus, Indian architectural formation met with the needs and wants of the traditional family system. Myneni mentioned in his article that “the total number of courtyards in one residence could sometimes be five to six.”(Myneni, 2013, p. 634)

Indian archaeologists discovered a mud brick-constructed settlement which dates back to around 6000 B.C (Myneni, 2013, p. 633). Those archaeologists found the rooms of this dwelling surrounding a central courtyard. From my point of view, this feature is coming back to the effect of social aspect that the major of mud brick-constructed houses in Egypt have this feature “a central courtyard” – which Egyptians called it by vulnerable language “Wist el-Dar”, the center of the house – that to soothe down the hot weather as well as all member of Egyptian family gather in. In the settlements of Athangudi, we can observe, regarding the cultural requirements of the community, the different function for the courtyard that the family members collect regularly through the water of rains, as well as small courtyards as an interaction space in order to act the household activities.(Myneni, 2013, p. 635)

Now, we will view together the significance of a courtyard in Indian traditional architectural heritage within two case studies in Rajasthan and Kerala. Through the common architectural form in these two Indian cities, we can observe the courtyard as a key fundamental architectural component in its vernacular settlements saving the privacy of householders. “The courtyard house is traditionally called Haveli in North India, Wada in Maharasthra, Rajbari in West Bengal, Deori in Hyderabad, Cathurmukham in Tamil Nadu, and Nalukettu in Kerala (Susilo, Issue no. 2, p. 8).”

In Rajasthan, courtyard spaces create an adaptive environment and to enter beautifully a light and ventilation to the house rooms. Bahl was mentioned that courtyard is the core of Havili architecture[1], and a transition phase between the public places and the private places in the same settlement. This architectural interaction encourages the inhabitants to act their activities responding their private requirements. On the other hand, the householders put their pull beds during summer nights and sleep in the central courtyard enjoying by sky and stars. So, the courtyards in Rajasthan settlements are considered “the heart of Indian livings”. Architecturally, the layout of courtyard corners, is based on the construction type and the householders, that its design is very symbolic according to the socio-economical lifestyle, art and cultural attitudes of them who request artists to paint drawings on the courtyard walls from the religious scenes, the daily life routine, or the social believes. In vernacular buildings, courtyard is majorly arranged in regard with human proportion in order to create it as a peaceful environment to invest. Indians called these open spaces by “Brahmastana”, the genius loci of the house. (Archinomy, 1992; Bahl, 2014)

Furthermore, we will display the architectural aspect “Courtyard” within other Indian city “Kerala”. Kerala state geographically has about 50 traditional architectural settlements. Although some of modern Kerala houses is respectively followed the architectural concept “Courtyard” in its layout, the central open courtyard is considered an old distinguished feature for Kerala architecture which called traditionally by Indians “Nadumuttom”. Courtyard in Kerala architecture divides the settlements to four sections creating an open-air space exactly in the center of the settlement. An old houses or dwellings, that were followed this architectural style, called as “Nalukettu” settlements which were of Brahmins, landlords and the royalty.(Kerala Architecture, 2016; Susilo, Issue no. 2, p. 1)

Classical Indian architects called a vernacular architectural term “Veedu“, on the houses in Kerala, that the architectural system of the joint family houses. It is “a very common vernacular term for house among the tribal communities.” Veedu is an Asian term that was used in some places of northern Srilanka for the major kind of residential architecture. Those architects appreciate the concentric layout of settlements specifically of the Sala or hall. Regarding that, there are some houses which called “Catusala“, to be so associated to the local Indian architectural term Nalukettu, a four-hall settlement/courtyard settlement. The houses of Muslims and Christian Syrian in Kerala is simply considered the most houses which were structured regarding this indigenous-vernacular architectural style Veedu/Catusala with a central courtyard. (Susilo, Issue no. 2, p. 5, 6)

In conclusion, we observed the importance of courtyard in Indian traditional architectural settlements and its role that to play in the daily life routine of Indians especially in Rajasthan and Kerala. Moreover, article displays some of social activity’s effects on the structure of Indian built vernacular heritage and how Indian people, e.g. in Kerala, come back using their old structure in the layout and construction phases.

The layout of Indian courtyard house Photo source:
The layout of Indian courtyard house
Photo source:


Open air royal courtyard, City Palace, Rajasthan Photo source:
Open air royal courtyard, City Palace, Rajasthan
Photo source:


Traditional Kerala architecture theme house Photo source:
Traditional Kerala architecture theme house
Photo source:


"Nadumuttom" - The traditional interior courtyard Photo source:
“Nadumuttom” – The traditional interior courtyard
Photo source:



Archinomy. (1992). The Vernacular Architecture of Rajasthan [Academic Platform]. Retrieved August 27, 2016, from

Bahl, V. (2014, October 27). Haveli — A Symphony of Art and Architecture. The New Indian Express. India. Retrieved from

Gupta, R. (2016). Traditional and Vernacular Architecture [Academic Platform]. Retrieved August 27, 2016, from

International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). (1999, October). Charter on The Built Vernacular Heritage (1999) [Organization]. Retrieved September 3, 2016, from

Kerala Architecture. (2016). Features of Kerala Architecture [Architecture Company]. Retrieved August 27, 2016, from

Myneni, K. K. (2013). “Courtyard as a Building Component” Its Role and Application in Developing a Traditional Built Form, Creating Comfort: A Case of Athangudi Village, India. International Journal of Chemical, Environmental & Biological Sciences (IJCEBS), 1(4), 633 – 639.

Susilo, I. W. (Issue no. 2). The Living Culture and Typo-Morphology of Vernacular-Traditional Houses in Kerala [Academic Website]. Retrieved August 27, 2016, from

[1] Haveli architecture is a unique vernacular architecture form that flourished in the 18th and 19th century in the pre-Partition western India, particularly in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Influenced by cross-cultural currents from central Asia, Islamic Persian and Rajput architecture, the haveli architecture was a direct response to the regional climate, while being a mirror of local art and landscape. Haveli means a mansion, and the word was derived from Arabic — probably taken from the Persian word hawli, meaning an enclosed place. The term was first applied by the Vaishnava sect for their temples in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Later, the architectural form was adopted for individual mansions. Standing as a symbol of power and prestige, haveli householders were the noblemen, landowners or successful merchants. They housed a complex social organization formed from the householders’ family, servants, story tellers, lady companions and sometimes even slaves. (Bahl, 2014)


  • Mohamed Badry
    Mohamed Badry

    HeritageForAll Initiative Founder

    Mohamed Badry is from Cairo, Egypt. He is a founder of "HeritageForAll" initiative that was founded in April 2017 focusing the field of the heritage and/or museum management and conservation throughout a group of capacity building activities. He has an extensive background in the field of heritage management and marketing. Holding M.A. in Heritage Conservation and Site Management from Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg (Germany) and Helwan University (HU) (Egypt) (2015); a Guidance Diploma, Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management (FTH, HU) (2011); and a Bachelor in History, Faculty of Arts – Cairo University (2009), he held numerous internships with UNESCO Cairo office, and UNESCO New Delhi-supported initiative GoUNESCO. His M.A. dissertation was specified in the field of heritage marketing under the title of "Developing Innovative Marketing Plan to Augment the Visitation of Egyptian World Heritage Sites: A Case Study on Saladin Citadel". He was a research and teaching assistant in the field of heritage management focusing the theme of “Authenticity and Socio-economic Integrity of a Living Heritage” at German University of Technology in Oman [affiliated to RWTH Aachen Uni.]. Since 2012, he worked a freelance English-speaking tour guide in Cairo. Then in 2016, he worked for a while as a heritage development officer at Children's Civilization and Creativity Centre (Child Museum). Also, he got an individual ICOM membership. Then, he worked as a monitoring and evaluation officer at OEcumene Studio with UNHCR CSR Unite-funded projects. Also, he participated the former company, as a researcher, in the heritage project “Siwa Architecture Community Centre: towards an Inclusive and Heritage-conscious Urban Transition (SIWI Project)” raising awareness of the local community about Siwan architecture and the cultural significance of traditional architectural heritage. Then, as a founder of HeritageForAll initiative, he launched a workshop "Urban Architectural Heritage and Social Interaction" understanding the heritage context in Rashid as Egyptian tentative world heritage city; estimating socio-economically how the local community deals with their surrounding cultural heritage; what their requirements are; and how far they welcome the heritage tourism in their historic city. Furthermore, he participated a consultation team of Shaboury Company - Heritage Development in preparing a proposal of Giza Plateau Master Plan (2019 – 2022) as a part of UNESCO Egyptian World Heritage Site "Memphis & its Necropolis".

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    Shanthanu Shashi Ashok

    The picture labelled ‘The layout of Indian courtyard house’ is actually a Sinehuan house from China. Can you please explain the reason behind labelling it this way, if any? Otherwise, I request you to kindly rectify the error in mislabelling… Thank you!

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    Wow! this is a great touch of the Indian traditional architectural.

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