Catch up with the earthy culture
Functional aspects apart, terra cotta serves aesthetic purposes too. Ranjani Govind takes a look.
THE SERENITY of traditional architecture integrating with contemporary brick and mortar expressions that's precisely the role that the earthy terra cotta tiles are identified with. Consider this: Flooring, roofing, aesthetic ceilings, pavements in garden, pathway leading to the swimming pool, wall decoration - terracotta is game for all these.
Until a few years ago, however, the tile was used in everything else, except perhaps as a wall decorative.
Nizar Ahamed of N.K. Ahammed, timber merchants who also deal in terra cotta tiles says, "Even if the appearance of these tiles has forced them into playing distinct customary roles, terra cotta is one variety that has stepped way ahead of the defined periphery now. Its simple looks are a superficial makeover. Once it finds a place on the roof or wall, you will realise that your building has an abundance of rustic appeal."
In an age where synthetics are taking over as cosmetic makeovers, the urge to bring in traditional simplicity is one aspect of the changing attitude of the people towards the rich clay. Also, technological breakthroughs have rid the terra cotta tile of its few disadvantages. These are reasons enough to see the growing use of these tiles in several buildings, other than residences too.
For instance, terra cotta in front elevations, sunshades, slopes and flooring are more for its quality of weather-resistance, supposedly cutting the radiation by 15 per cent, claims Mr. Ahammed. It has no seepage of water, even in places of torrential rain as Kerala and Assam where the tiles are a part of the lifestyle. The garden area gains a better grip for walking while being cool on the feet.
Functional aspects apart, terra cotta is a part of the decorative-tile-family too. Flat artistic tiles in quite a few shapes and sizes (ranging from Rs. 4.50 to Rs.12 per tile) have entered the claddings scene. Cover the wall for clothing the bare white dividers, or use it as enhancers for pockets of interesting designery, just as a relief from the monotony. If you want an arty roofing, take it to the ceiling with wooden reapers.
Terra Cotta tiles used as decoratives can brighten up the appearance of any wall.
The technical upgradation has a ceramic glaze on the slope roofing tiles where they are re-fired in European technology at around 1000 degrees C. This gives a stable colour and a more durable body, besides resisting moss formation. When used in buildings near the seashore, the tile prevents withering caused by salt vapour.
What's more, a choice of six colours are also available, instead of the routine brick. The cost is Rs. 60 per sq. ft.
Interior Designer Shantha Nair's obsession for clay is too obvious at her Neelankarai residence. From her teacups to the pottery, everything jells so well with the gleaming red oxide flooring. Walking at the spaced terra cotta flooring with grass edgings in the pavement area, Shantha says, "Being a Keralite and a lover of mud, you can see my increased association with terra cotta. People have to be told how to bring in terracotta for decoration in a myriad ways. That's when a culture catches on."
Nizar Ahamed says terra cotta tiles are mass-produced in factories where there are ready dyes and kilns for firing in state-of-the-art technologies mainly in Calicut and Nuzvid in Kerala and Warangal in Andhra Pradesh where he sources his tiles from.
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