Vivina Joseph Selphy

Master of Architecture (ARB/RIBA Part 2)


This project as the name suggests is a network of water towers and boat terminals that contribute to resolving the ongoing problems caused by backwater tourism in Allapuzha, Kerala, India.

Backwater tourism is the main source of attraction and the most revenue-generating tourism in Kerala because of the vast network of canals and rivers it hosts.

Houseboats travelling through these canals and rivers are degrading the quality of water affecting many factors like decreased rice crops, locals unable to get access to clean water for domestic purposes, decreased production of aquaculture etc.

There is a considerable lack of discipline in houseboat travel routes, timing and parking allotments which also causes major congestion in the waterways disturbing the local community and ecological balance. This project aims to tackle the two main problems.  Water pollution and overcrowding of houseboats. This is achieved by proposing a terminal for houseboats which allocates parking for houseboats, repair facilities, tourism offices to keep the houseboats/backwater tourism orderly and several other activities such as getting to experience fishing, learning about the coir industry and participating in coir making, learning about pokkali fields and eco-tourism etc.

The project also houses off-grid, self-sustaining infrastructural water tower units that aim to respond to Allepy’s most immediate challenges: limited access to clean drinking water, electricity, and the pollution caused due to the tourist activities that contribute to the downfall of the ecosystem. Each unit pumps canal water/rainwater to be stored on elevated tanks, which is then filtered and distributed strategically to local communities and agriculture fields. Driven by the research, these water towers are designed to exist in the most vulnerable areas of Alappuzha. The water tower is designed to be located in various parts of the waterways to navigate the routes of the tourist boats (houseboats,shikaras, motorboats etc.) and tourist activities keeping the primary function of the towers to remain the same which is water storage and filtration.

Design Brief

Water is considered one of the most difficult elements to account for in a design. The aim behind the studies documented on this project is to understand the behaviour of the structural components involved in the design considering the complications that might occur due to the environmental conditions surrounding the site. The location experiences heavy rainfall during monsoon and scorching heat during summer, materials have been carefully chosen to accommodate these weather conditions. This building displays a natural material palette in deference to its surroundings. Thatch roofing, wooden structural members and brick walls are the three main materials used in this building.

Acting as the terminal building for houseboats this building needs to accommodate the demands of an exclusive terminal as well stand as an attraction point for backwater tourism. Occupying the periphery of the island the terminal was designed to bring the natural setting of the site within the building. The building sits partially on the island and the waterbody. A clean but jagged exterior profile, which announces its presence on the otherwise smooth surface of the water, is repeated inside to define a series of terminal spaces. The massive wooden dock structures cantilever over its piers, many of them resting on structural members designed to be submerged, others on the periphery of the island.

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view from the dock towards the arrival terminal
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