A traditional Maldivian village is notable for its neat and orderly layout, with wide streets in a regular, rectangular grid. Houses are made of concrete blocks or coral stone joined with mortar, and the walls line the sides of the streets. Many houses will have a shaded courtyard in front, enclosed by a chest-high wall fronting the street. This courtyard is an outdoor room, with joli and undholi seats (see the boxed text, opposite), where families sit in the heat of the day or the cool of the evening. A more private courtyard behind, the gifili has a well and serves as an open-air bathroom.
At intersections, the coral walls have rounded corners, which considerably soften the streetscape. These corners are seemingly designed to facilitate turning vehicles, but they are like this in small island villages that never see a vehicle. The same style is used in Male', where it does make turning easier for cars and trucks. On the upper floors of a modern building, the rounded corners are more for appearance than practicality, and seem to be a deliberate adaptation of a traditional feature.
The architecture of resorts is eclectic, imitative of anything from a Balinese bale to an African rondavel or an American motel. The most identifiably Maldivian feature is the open-air bathroom, a delightful feature popular with guests.
Was this article helpful?