May 19, 2010
Not long ago most Mangaloreans lived in houses that used the famed Mangalore tiles. These tiles with printed alphabets and year and name of the manufacturers and other details formed the formative years of our learning to read English. Many Christians especially in the city of Mangalore lived in large Portugese type of houses with an open portico on the front and a spacious hall at the centre of the house interior with adjoining rooms. Places like Lalbagh, Falnir, Pandeshwar, Bendoor, and Kankanady were dotted with this type of palatial bungalows or mansions attached with an equally gigantic compound. These heritage homes gave Mangalore its distinct identity, adding to its captivating beauty and allure.
Somewhere down the line concrete roofing became a fad and people switched over to the unimaginative concrete roofs. With the real estate prizes in Mangalore skyrocketing and maintaining the old tile roofed houses becoming more of a liability the easy way out was to demolish the old houses to make way for apartments. With Rapid urbanization and commercialization of posh central areas of the city some of the majestic heritage homes have made way for commercial buildings and up market shopping malls. Though the typical old colonial houses have made way for modern bungalows we come across some beautiful houses of old type that remind us of the bygone Portugese colonial era.
It is a fact that these heritage homes that have helped Mangalore maintain its good old charm, though their number is fast disappearing. Fortunately we also find some passionate and effervescent champions of these heritage homes who have been making gritty efforts to conserve the rich and distinct architectural heritage bequeathed to us by the forefathers. This conservation effort would be the first step towards showcasing and familiarizing our architectural legacy to the future generation.
Prominent architect of Mangalore Sanath Shetty has been in the forefront in this drive of conserving our heritage homes by making a small but momentous effort in this direction. He has also found a few people like-minded people who share this passion for the heritage homes and their combined efforts have yielded mindboggling results helping to restore at least a handful of homes in the city as of now, to their old grandeur and charm. The T K House in Vamanjoor is one such home which is resplendent with its traditional grandeur standing as a testimony to an era that has gone by.
THE T K HOUSE
This enormous T K House is the pride of Vamanjoor and with an equally huge compound restored to its past glory is the cynosure of all eyes. This landmark heritage home epitomizes the efforts of Sanath and the owners of T K House - the Mendonca family, for their herculean efforts to restore the age old charm. Built in 1956 by late Albert Paul Mendonca, who had quarry business then, it had originally 8 rooms meant for his eight children. Shobha Mendonca daughter-in-law of late Albert who took the arduous responsibility of overseeing the restoration work of the house says “with the children going to Dubai in search of better prospects the house was not lived for almost 20 years. But the family is greatly attached to this home in which the children had spent their childhood. We wanted the house to become alive once again. We wanted to retain this as a landmark which prompted us to venture into this luxuriant undertaking of restoring the house which was in a very bad shape”.
The opportunity came in the form of a wedding in the Mendonca family and the brothers Lawrence, Richard and James and their equally enthusiastic spouses, the joint owners of the house decided to restore the house to its past glory and celebrate the “roce ceremony’’ of the family in this very house. The family contacted architect Sanath Shetty and gave an incredibly short period of 3 months to complete the task. And the results of their formidable labour of love have been just amazing. It has to be remembered that restoring an old house is equal or much more expensive than building a new house and one need to be very unsparing in spending.
For the Mendonca family money was not a consideration or obstacle in their desire to bring T K House to its original splendor and glory. Converted into a 3 bed room house with attached bathrooms for convenience, for the three brothers and their families, it has been refurbished to its original glory without affecting the original outward structure of the house. Changes are effected to provide modern comforts to make living easy and convenient. But the house carries with it the nostalgic memories to its inmates as nothing has changed when it comes to associating their childhood memories with the house. Old tiles are used to the roof to give it a quiet but aged dignity.
As one enters the T K House it is the behemoth compound that houses the heritage manor and its open spacious portico with red oxide flooring that catches the attention at first glance. At the right end of the veranda is the painting of a huge cross that beholds the attention. The Front door and the windows are original restored with an impeccable touch and so are the windows of the bedroom and living room. Built in cup-boards, the attic (malo), the good old wooden attic ladder, grandfather clocks, antique furniture etc., succeed in retaining the same age old magic of heritage look to the interior of the house. The entire house has red oxide flooring and glitters with the brush of polish it has received.
The living room which was dark is brightened by demolishing an interior wall. The dining hall is extended to make way for members of three families of brothers. The bedrooms are to the either side of the living room. The inner wall of one of the rooms is opened up to pave the way for a bigger kitchen. The dining room veranda leads to the bathroom with the age old facility of heating water with wood for bathing purpose. The copper vessel or ‘ban’ commonly found in some of the old houses even now is redone, keeping in tune with its concept of restoring the original concept. An extension has been made to have care-taker rooms and also to have a garage for vehicle parking.
The huge compound has coconut trees and the old trade mark ‘bimbli’ tree which was an essential part of most catholic households in Mangalore. The work of the garden is still going on and Shobha says plans are afoot to plant some fruit and flower tress to provide shade and cool breeze.
Richard Mendonca, one of the Mendonca brothers says the whole restoration work cost them a bomb. “We could have gone for a new house and some people might say it is the height of madness. But it does not matter as long as our sisters-in-law are happy”, he said with a smile even as he looked at Shobha for her reaction. Shobha says “we all wanted the house to be restored. It was a collective decision of the family. I have just executed this collective decision”.
Whatever said and done, the Mendonca family is happy with the final outcome of the house. Shobha is all praise for Sanath Shetty for accomplishing a splendid job that too within a short span. He was given a free hand by the family and Sanath delivered a product to the utmost satisfaction of the entire Mendonca family.
On his part Sanath says that he was given 90 days time to carry out the task that included structure, compound wall and extension. “Looking back sometimes I wonder I could complete the task. It was a big challenge as the structure was old and in bad condition and I had to go with the same heritage concept. Specific carpenters had to be located to carry out this kind of restoration job. Nothing was easy and I had no time even to think as the family wedding was fixed for December. But it was a challenge and I am happy the party is satisfied with the task we carried out”, declares Sanath Shetty.
Shobha with a look of satisfaction writ large sums it up saying “anyone can have an ultra modern house by spending money. But not everyone is privileged to have a heritage home that has lingering memories associated with their good old days in their homes”.
RECREATING LOUCIANA MANSION
While the Mendonca house has been the result of the labour of restoring, the Mathias house telltale the saga of translocation of a heritage home with astounding results. When Sanath Shetty got to know that the Louciana Mansion in Falnir was about to be demolished he contacted Mathias who had shown great inclination for a heritage home and was on the look out for the same. “The Louciana Mansion was bought by Fortune Builders and when we came to know about it we approached Karunakaran of Fortune builders, who had bought the property and was all set to demolish that mansion. Both Sanath and me got in touch with Karunakaran who was initially reluctant to strike a deal”, recalls Gregory Mathias who was primarily responsible for the translocation of Louciana Mansion.
But being a friend Karunakaran obliged and Sanath and Mathias felt that the best way or preserving this heritage legacy was by translocation. The result is that the broken mansion was transported piece by piece to be translocated to the interior Innanje, near Pangla in Shankarapura where the Mathias’s have their ancestral property.
With every piece of the heritage bungalow with its unique significance had to be transported and Mathias was forced to buy a transport vehicle for this purpose. Mathias feels the troubles were worth as the end result has been a rewarding experience to his family. Under the expert guidance of Sanath the building was relocated to this deserving location and a portion was seamlessly added to ensure the comforts of the owner.
The awe-inspiring beauty of the relocated heritage home is sure to make anyone fall in love with this flawless legacy restored to its past glory. A courtyard of water and plants symbolically separates the two blocks of the house adding to its heritage tag. The trans-located mansion has four bedrooms with attached bath as against the original three with the original kitchen making way for bedroom. The translocated house has retained the original pillars, mould, roof and design of the original Lousiana Mansion. The flooring of the entire house is red oxide to blend with its age.
A bedroom, kitchen and a hall has been added to the house to ensure comfort and luxuriance of the owner. The extension has been carried out with high degree of planning and meticulousness giving consideration to every aspect of architectural aesthetics to coalesce with the heritage house. Every detail like the railing, verandah, attic, niches, niches and recessed windows have been recreated authentically. Used and aged tiles have been used to cover the roof to render an impression of an aged dignity to the house.
Gregory Mathias says the high roof of the Louciana Mansion was one of the factors that made him fall in love with the house and he has maintained the same roof for the translocated house. Some of the roof entrances of the house are as high as 16 feet and the ecstasy of entering such a home send thrilling shivers down the spine.
Today this translocated heritage home stands magnificently with the brilliance and splendor it deserves and is a treasure of everything antique – from doors, windows, built in cupboards, daily use articles, lampshades, furniture etc., taking the memories to the bygone era. The success of these homes has shown that conservation of our architectural heritage and showcasing it to the future generations is the only way to respect the talented designers, craftsmen and builders.
Both these heritage homes stand as testimony to the concept of sustainable construction keeping in tune with the spirit of “reduce, reuse and recycle”, adopted so successfully in these homes. The Mendonca and Mathias families and the architect of this concept architecture Sanath Shetty certainly deserve accolades and appreciation for these accomplishments. Both these families have shown that it is not enough to have riches alone. One must have the right taste, aptitude and the fortitude to go with it.
To add to the crowning glory, architect Sanath Shetty has been recently conferred with IIID (Indian Institute of Interior Designers) anchor award for creative illumination in interiors. He received the award from Mr. Tushar Gandhi (great grand son of Mahatma Gandhi) in Bangalore, which exemplifies that true talent gets the recognition it deserves. One only hopes more and more people draw inspiration from the success achieved by the collective efforts of these intrepid connoisseurs of heritage homes. Their efforts are a small beginning to expiate for the concrete jungle we have built around us.
Sanath Shetty can be contacted at email : firstname.lastname@example.org
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