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  • Balcony Grill

Pigment, Wood, Iron
Late 19th century, Early 20th century
Gujarat, Western India

Jaalis or lattice screens have long been a feature of railings, balconies, grills and windows in vernacular Indian architecture for many centuries. Typically, these were either carved from solid blocks of stone or constructed using carved wooden elements or fretwork planks. During the nineteenth century, cast iron and wrought iron grills began to feature in British colonial architecture in India. These, as well as other new materials and European architectural elements, were soon integrated in local residential buildings as well, especially in those being constructed by the emerging middle class in the cities of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Bengal.

The metal grills encouraged greater ventilation into the havelis of this era with their narrower house fronts. They were, however, primarily ornamental in nature and remained popular until the early 20th century when iron stocks were commandeered for artillery during the World War and the price of iron increased significantly. As a result, the use of iron grills became rarer and the grills themselves became less decorative. Typically, multiple railing elements such as this example are used together to front the balcony of a Gujarati mansion. As is customary, all the street-facing rooms on the floor share a common narrow balcony that runs the length of the house fa├žade.

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