The famed Mangalore tiles are still a big draw in modern day constructionSloping roofs with muddy brown tiles still define the city's skyline even though multi-storeyed buildings and shopping malls are changing the way the Mangalore looks."Houses with Mangalore tiles have an old world charm about them," says Vinayak, who bought a tile-roofed house in Gorigudda three years ago. The cooling effect of the tiles helps beat the heat in the harsh summers, he says. Usha, from Kadri who stays in a tiled roof house that is more than a hundred years old, says: "these tiles are perfect for the weather in Mangalore. All our guests comment on how cool it feels inside the house. Apart from the comfort, these tiles are a part of the tradition of the city. It feels nice to belong to it." While tiled roofs might be ideal in the sun and rains, it comes with its own problems. "Dirt is my main problem. Since our house is located on the main road, lots of dust comes in through the gaps between tiles," says Usha.Shamala, who lived in a tiled roof house earlier, says although she loved the house, rodents were a problem. "It was difficult to handle the mice in the house."Replacing broken tiles is another problem. Tiles break if a coconut or some other fruit falls on them. "Since the roof is high, we sometimes don't even realize a tile has broken until water starts leaking into the house," adds Usha. F.M. Lobo, Managing Partner of Cassia Tile Factory in the city, says the advantages outweigh these problems, given the weather conditions in the region. "Just one or two tiles need to be replaced in case of a leak. If a concrete roof starts leaking, the costs of repair are so much higher." Old houses have a charm of their own. Not everyone is lucky enough to live in them but there are some who have built the house of their dreams. Architect Collin Pinto says tiles are popular even in new constructions. But the manner of use has changed. Timber rafters need to be used to build roofs completely with tiles. Since the cost of timber is high, this proves an expensive proposition. To retain the aesthetic charm, and keep the costs of construction reasonable, many people are opting for sloping roofs of concrete, over which Mangalore tiles are laid. "The tiles add that old world charm of the house, and insulate against the heat."There are cases of even apartment buildings opting for tiles over their top most floor, which is perhaps an indication of how integral these fine blocks of clay are to the city.
A BRIEF HISTORYA German Missionary Plebot set up the first tile factory in 1865, after he found large deposits of clay by the banks Gurupur and Nethravathi Rivers. It was called Basel Mission Tile factory and located on the banks of the river Nethravathi, around 100 meters away from Ullal Bridge.Several other tile factories came up in the years that followed. Abundant deposits of clay, plenty of firewood from the Western Ghats and cheap skilled labour helped the industry flourish. Since the tiles were made only in the city initially, they came to be called Mangalore tiles.Today, there are only five tile factories in the city as compared to forty-five in the Seventies. The first tile factory has also shut down. Reduction in clay deposits, labour problems and tile factories coming up in other places are said to be some of the reasons for the decline.
SAVITHA SURESH BABU