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Gates — past, present and the future

From the `padippura' kind of yore to designer gates, they can make or mar the first impressions one has of a house. A look at what kind of gates are preferred these days.



MARK OF CHARACTER: Gates have always been a symbol of social status. - PHOTO: MAHESH HARILAL

Gates mark the character of a house, of any building in that case. And, they come in all shapes and sizes. Arched gateways, carved gates, gates with pillars, gates without pillars... the list is endless.

A brief history

All through the history of Kerala's architecture, gates have gone through considerable transformation. Earlier, gates were non-existent for the majority of the population. Only the rich and members of the aristocracy could flaunt gateways to their residences. The elaborate `padippuras' (literally, gatehouses), were marks of social status. There was a time when not everybody had the right to build a padippura, even if he had the wherewithal. The social norms were stringent and often, even permission from the ruling king was necessary.

In aristocratic households, padippura became the `padippura malika,' a separate house itself, for the use of the male members of the family.

But for the ordinary folk, it was a simple structure made of bamboo and coconut fronds, at best. Often, a `kadamba,' (a cross bar made of bamboo or wood), would be set up permanently at knee height to prevent cattle from entering the courtyard. People had to step over the crossbar, which was an effortless task only for the young and the healthy.

Changing times

With the changing times, the `padippura-s' of feudal glory began to come down. The simple wooden or bamboo gates of the commoners began to change appearance to fit into the changing social status. Iron gates started appearing.

From then on, gates have become the distinctive aspect of individual households. They also became objects to display the pomp of the owner. "There are people who spend the amount of money needed to build a 1,500-square feet house for a gate," says Abey Johnson, a Kochi-based builder. It is possible to have even a gate worth Rs.2.5 lakhs, he points out.

Cast iron gates

Cast iron gates are more popular these days, given their resistance to the humid weather of Kerala. Cast iron gates with a width of 12 feet to 24 feet are available. The 24-feet wide gate comes with a padippura, with an inner gate of 12 feet and side gates of six feet each. The price ranges anywhere between Rs.16,000 to Rs.2 lakhs.

"The cost of cast iron gates differ according to the weight and design," Mr. Johnson points out. He has even installed a Rs.2.5-lakh worth gate at a residence in Kochi recently. The priceless gate came in golden coloured cast iron.

Wood is the other alternative for the high-end customers. Wooden gates naturally need an overhead covering to keep corroding agents like rain and sun away, leading to the `padippura.' The ancient symbol of status is making a comeback these days. Among the available kinds of timber, teak is said to the best. The cost of a teak gate starts from Rs.10,000, going up anywhere to Rs.3 lakhs.

When choosing teak gates, utmost care is to be given while choosing the appropriate piece of wood. The teak should be dry and seasoned. It will need a thickness of 1.25 inches. Galvanised iron (GI) pipes and mild steel (MS) pipes are other options for gates. Gates made of iron pipes cost between Rs.8,000 and Rs.35,000.

Iron gates, covered with aluminium check sheets (usually used for bus platforms), are also used for the gates. The sheets ensure total privacy to the household.

The aluminium sheets are better than GI sheets, points out Mr. Johnson. The reason, aluminium does not rust. A three-coat painting can increase the life span of the gates considerably.

There are also aluminium and stainless steel pipes. A combination of both stainless steel and cast iron pipes are used, with price range of Rs.20,000 and Rs.30,000.

Designer gateway

Though a large number of designs are available readymade in the market, sometimes architects design luxury gates and get them cast independently. This will result in cost escalation, but will make you the proud owner of a `designer gateway.'

These days, security systems are also installed on the gate, such as instant alarms, door phones with camera and answering machine. Luxury gates can often be automated, with remote-controlled operations so as to enable the owner to enter without ever having to get out of the car for opening the gates or wait for someone to open the doors.

RENU RAMANATH

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