Goan Traditional Architecture and Style: Dive Into The Past


Goan Traditional Architecture and Style 

Goan traditional architecture has a unique vibrancy and uses very interesting materials. It has a language of its own, intricate, beautiful, and very artistic. The chief building materials involved in a typical Goan house were all very local and indigenous. Laterite and stone were widely used along with wood, metal, and tiles of different patterns and varied styles. Ornamentation was a focal point and evolved greatly. We present to you some salient features that distinguished this style from the others. 

The architecture of Goan Catholics had strong Portuguese and native Goan influences. It developed over the Portuguese India era (1500s–1961). 

Many of the 16th and 17th-century colonial Catholic churches were built in the Portuguese Baroque style. Most of the historic houses still standing were built between the 18th century and the early part of the 20th century, in a mix of Neoclassical and Gothic Revival styles. 

Mother of Pearl Shell Window 

Goan Architecture used windows as an expression of art, made with ‘nacre’ or ‘carepa’, oyster shell windows were an intrinsic and enigmatic characteristic of the traditional upper–class dwellings. The nacre or the mother-of-pearl, which is otherwise waste material, was then cut into lozenge shapes and slid into wooden battens to give windows added value and beauty. Translucent like paper yet not as transparent as glass the passing light through them felt kaleidoscopic and warm. 


Country tiles used as a corbel are a feature peculiar to Goa. The effect achieved is aesthetically pleasing, giving the roof projection a solid, molded appearance. 

Clay and Heritage Tiles 

Beautiful old, carved wooden furniture (all made in Goa) and large Belgian glass mirrors also formed important features in traditional Goan architecture. 

Gateposts and Compound Walls 

Gateways consisted of elaborately carved compound walls on either side of the gate posts with enticing designs. 

Use of Porcelain 

Most of the porcelain in the old Goan homes came from Macau, which was another Portuguese colony. Goans used porcelain extensively throughout their houses. 

Columns or Pilasters 

Railings were the most intricate embellishment in a Goan house. Pillars and columns juxtaposed with the old world charm were also a regular feature. 

Use of Colour 

The colours had to be dramatic, and deep and were achieved with vegetable and natural dyes. Playing in combinations that are highly eye-catching they helped define Goan architecture with the Goa vibe, relaxed, warm, and vibrant! 


Most houses are symmetrical with the entrance door occupying the place of honour. Typically the front door leads to a foyer which then either leads to the sala (the main hall for entertaining a large number of guests) or the sala de visita (a smaller hall for entertaining a small number of guests) and in some cases the chapel in the house. From here one can also directly enter the rest of the house, which usually revolved around a courtyard. Typically the master bedroom opens into the sala or is close to it. The dining room is usually perpendicular to these rooms; the bedrooms flank the courtyard, and the kitchen and service areas are at the rear of the house. In the case of two-story houses, a staircase, either from the foyer or the dining room, leads to more bedrooms on the upper floor. 

Consisting of humble burnt earth plastered over with cow dung and hay, or with elaborate patterns made with tiles imported from Europe, the floors in Goan houses have been both workplaces and statements. 

Almost all Goan houses have a false ceiling of wood. 

Goan Hindu houses 

The Goan Hindu Architectural style is different from the Portuguese-influenced style. Hindu houses have little colonial influence. Most of the big houses have a courtyard called Rajangan in Konkani where a Tulasi Vrindavan is seen. A special place called a Soppo is often used for relaxing. Goan traditional Hindu houses have the following features: 

  • Angan (courtyard with a Tulasi Vrundavan) 
  • Rajangan (a courtyard inside the house) 
  • Deva kood (a place for daily prayer and other rituals) 
  • Saal (a hall) 
  • Raanchi kood (a kitchen with a door which is called Magil daar) 
  • A room special meant for pregnant and nursing mothers. 
  • Kothar (storeroom) 
  • A hall specially meant for celebrating Ganeshotsav