15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation

Natural light, fresh air, and a constant, comfortable temperature. These are three of the most basic components we need in our interior spaces. By expanding and increasing the use of glass in contemporary building facades, we can increase natural light. However, to combine these wall-to-wall glazed surfaces with ventilation and temperature control, high-powered technical solutions are often required.

As the architecture industry shifts its focus towards greater sustainability and energy efficiency, many modern projects in the world’s hottest (and getting hotter) environments are unearthing more traditional ways to control temperature, light, and ventilation by learning from the past to save us from the future.

With one of the highest average temperatures on the planet, India’s need for solar-controlling architecture is huge. With one of the fastest-growing economies as well, however, the country is faced with balancing growth with international commitments to sustainability, all during a time of unprecedented environmental crisis. To achieve both targets, many projects are re-introducing the traditional intricate jali – or jaali – facade, or revitalizing the technique in a simpler form.


Related Article

Balancing Function and Aesthetics: Incorporating Natural Light and Ventilation in Facades


Jali involves drilling or carving through stone panels to provide building facades with intricate and ornate patterns with historical, religious, and cultural significance. While the technique adds an impressive and symbolic aesthetic to an exterior, they are also useful for controlling the harsh daylight inside, often used to create cool, dimly lit sanctuaries and direct attention toward sacred images in temples.

Similar to the practice of mashrabiya common in traditional Islamic architecture, the open gaps control an interior’s airflow through passive ventilation, without leaving it completely open to the sun. By blocking light and encouraging airflow, jali walls are often used to bring additional light and a cooling breeze to internal areas, without reducing privacy.

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 6 of 22

Although the intricate patterns found in historical Indian jalis required the work of highly skilled stonemasons, the effect is growing in popularity with modern projects too, thanks to its environmental credentials, but in a far simpler form. To use some of the most recent ArchDaily featured projects as examples of the rising popularity of the technique, the Ishtika House is encircled with a brick veil, sheltering its edges from the searing Ahmedabad sun while allowing air to flow through, ‘facilitating convectional cross-ventilation and to keep the home treating,’ explain the architects SPASM Design Architects.

Meanwhile, at the Belaku House in Bangalore, a brick jali screen ‘diffuses light into the bedrooms, but prevents rainwater from entering,’ says 4site architects, and A N Design Studio, architects of The Reading Room in Thiruvanthapuram, also chose to employ a brick jali to ‘diffuse the western sun’s brightness while creating an ambiance that balances natural radiance with discreet seclusion,’ as the architects put it.

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 3 of 22

For those who choose to include a jali wall or facade in a project, the decision is not only based on the technical advantages such as passive ventilation and solar management, but also on the more creative side. By changing the position, angle, and order of bricks, a simple wall can become a building’s standout feature, without affecting the project’s budget. Using nothing more than ordinary straight-facing bricks, projects like The Reading Room can bring part of the facade to life simply by leaving gaps between them. Alternatively, by changing the bricklaying angle by 90 degrees, the Masjid E Zubaida in Raichur adds depth with a wave pattern of bricks and gaps. Meanwhile, the Banyan Tree House in Thrissur brings flowing movement to a static wall by making slight changes to the angle of each brick.

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 8 of 22

One way to add more creativity to a jali wall is to use more specialized perforated bricks. The bricks can be harder to produce but are often simpler to lay onsite. For example, the Inara House in Vaikom combines holed bricks with solid ones to feed light into a reading room and the Manjodaya House in Bangalore chooses specialist bricks with more intricate perforations or three-dimensional depth for its facade. But because both sets of bricks share the same dimensions, they can be laid just as quickly. Meanwhile, with a far larger jali wall section required, the New Building for the Parliament of India includes large-scale jali panels made from sandstone, used to shade the building’s first-floor verandahs.

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 10 of 22

The door remains open – or should that be a wall? – to various possible material choices for jali walls. Any hardwearing and structurally sound natural or man-made stone or brick can be used to apply the right color, texture, and functionality required. As well as the detailed perforations made in sandstone at the New Building for the Parliament of India, other project examples include the Lenka House, which features a 100ft boundary wall of granite crafted by skilled stonemasons without mortar, three-dimensional terracotta tiles at the Aham House in Guruvayur, and glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) panels that combine detailing with the strength and speed of application at the large-scale decorative facade of the Atal Akshaya Urja Bhavan Office Building in New Delhi.

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 5 of 22

Finally, it’s not just the partitions between the exterior and interior where jali walls can be effective, but the solution’s ability to improve the mobility of light and air also applies to interior partitions. By positioning jali walls either across a project’s exterior facade or by continuing the theme inside too, architects can punch through the facade to invite calming light, breeze, and natural environments inside.

These contemporary project examples from India detail the various materials, functions, patterns, and applications to use when creating a modern traditional jali wall:

Jali Walls in Different Materials

Brick Jali Wall

Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru / Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 12 of 22

Granite Jali Wall

Lenka House / Khosla Associates

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 13 of 22

Sandstone Jali Wall

New Building for the Parliament of India / HCP Design, Planning and Management

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 9 of 22

Terracotta Tile Jali Wall

Aham House / i2a Architects Studio

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 14 of 22

Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete (GFRC) Panel Jali Wall

Atal Akshaya Urja Bhavan Office Building / Edifice Consultants Pvt. Ltd

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 11 of 22

Types of Brick Used in Jali Walls

Solid Brick Jali

House Belaku / 4site architects

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 15 of 22

Circular Perforated Brick Jali

Inara House / CLAY COOP Architects

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 16 of 22

Square Perforated Brick Jali

0 to 150 LVL House / i2a Architects Studio

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 17 of 22

Intricate Geometric Perforated Brick Jali

Manjodaya House / Ecumene Habitat Solutions

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 18 of 22

Decorative Jali Walls With Standard Facing Bricks

Straight Brick Jali Wall

The Reading Room / A N Design Studio

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 19 of 22

90-degree Brick Jali Wall

Masjid E Zubaida / Neogenesis+Studi0261

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 20 of 22

Angled Brick Jali Wall

Banyan Tree House / Tales of Design Studio

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 21 of 22

Jali Walls With Simple Decorative Bricklaid Patterns

Brick Jali Wall With Repetitive Pattern

Ishtika House / SPASM Design Architects

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 7 of 22

Brick Jali Wall With Changing Pattern

Marketing Office / RA Design Studio

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 4 of 22

Brick Jali Wall With Random (no) Pattern

Cool House / Samira Rathod Design Atelier

15 Projects in India Using Traditional Jali Wall Facades: Solution to Control Light, Temperature and Ventilation  - Image 22 of 22

Find these and other recent projects with Jali walls and facades in this ArchDaily folder created by the author.

This article is part of an ArchDaily series titled India: Building for Billions, where we discuss the effects of population rise, urbanization, and economic growth on India’s built environment. Through the series, we explore local and international innovations responding to India’s urban growth. We also talk to the architects, builders, and community, seeking to underline their personal experiences. As always, at ArchDaily, we highly appreciate the input of our readers. If you think we should feature a certain project, please submit your suggestions.

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *