Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Roman courtyard

Early this month, my wife and I made a visit to the Melbourne Museum to see the Pompeii exhibition. Walking through the exhibits did give one a sense of being in Pompeii during the first century A.D., thanks to the displays and exhibits, and of course, the lighting. One of the things that fascinated me was a computer simulated walk through a Roman house. You can use the computer mouse to wander though the different rooms (everything you see is on the computer screen).

The point of interest is this: in the middle of the Roman house is an open courtyard. The courtyard was meant to collect water for use by the household. This was how many houses in Malaysia were built in my childhood days. I grew up in one. I do not know to whom do we owe this credit. Neither a traditional Malay house nor a traditional Chinese house are designed in this way for rain water collection. It could be a legacy of the colonial masters. In any case, the idea is similar to the Roman’s. The central part of the roof slants down into the courtyard area. Gutters run round the roof to collect rainwater. Just shows that we can learn a lot from history.

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