Modernity and traditionality are antonyms on paper, and the two expressions are poles apart in terms of their meaning in a dictionary, but the actual picture is entirely different. We often call a condition or an object traditional or part of a tradition when we see it as being done by our predecessors or if it does not belong to current times. It has become a way of labeling anything done by our ancestors. It is how civilizations have spanned. We will continue to thrive on what we have received from our antecedents and how we take it forward. It can be seen, felt, or even be completely abstract. All of us can define modernity and traditionality in our words and probably even can write a book on it. It is funny how according to our beliefs, what we call traditional today was once modern. Right? 

It might be a misunderstanding that anything old is traditional or a piece from the past. Yes, it can be a part of a tradition, but calling it outdated in times of modernity certainly does not do justice. It can be paradoxical at times and even ironical, but it stands true. One fine example is Dante’s Divine Comedy from the 14th century, which inspired Sandro Botticelli in the 15th century. The idea was inspired by a written work and transformed into a painting. What might have been modern back then points out how traditions, if seen in a particular manner, were kept alive in an innovative way, and simultaneously inspired by the past.

Are we losing traditionality in times of modernity? - Sheet1
The Hill of the Buddha_©, traditionality

Another example is Mr.Tadao Ando, the Japanese architect who has incorporated principles of simplicity inherited from his progenitors and learned them through his way of life; in almost all of his structures. But he has never stopped there, for he always wanted to infuse those handed-down and conventional ideas, which might be orthodox, in never-before-used ways. The ways are modern, as they are new to the world. Any human observing his style of design for the first time might be amazed to see the peculiar fashion in which tradition and modernity have married each other. 

It’s easy to confuse innovation with modernity sometimes but is that innovation backed by traditional instincts or not, is the question. The best way to assess tradition is most commonly through creative art, music, apparel, ornaments, living and working, and architecture from past eras. We visit numerous places in our life and are always astonished by them. The style they imbibed, the way they led their lives, and what swayed them into being what they were. We are left startled by these questions making us feel how times have changed. We have come a long way, from gigantic castles and forts perched on hilltops to tiny apartments and offices. 

Architecture is a precise medium of visual communication and a vehicle for transmitting ideas from year to year and era to era. We are identified by the places we inhabit and how it molds us over the phases of our existence. Elements of design keep us captivated and become the source of our ingenuity. As a beacon of light or a mirror, they never fail to show us something.

It’s a labyrinth to answer if we are losing traditionality in times of modernity. It is difficult to judge an individual or a group on that parameter, as no one knows what those folks have been through or seen that has made them do what they are doing. What has inspired them to deviate? 

Living in times where the advent of technology is considered a boon and a bane concurrently, the influence it has had on almost everything living and non-living is surreal. What was once considered impossible is now being looked at as child’s play. With every passing second, minute, hour, and day, what is new gradually becomes part of history. It’s inevitable and part of the script. Today, history is measured by the tangibility around us and the intangible within us. Our behaviors and actions all count as imperceptible. The link between traditionality and modernity is the people themselves, how they choose to keep it intact or wish to deflect changes in the future course. Today change is taking place rapidly.

Are we losing traditionality in times of modernity? - Sheet2
Antwerp Port House by Zaha Hadid Architects_©, traditionality

We live in times when every individual wants to create their own identity. We live in times where veering away is considered the way to live and eventually explore. The clock keeps ticking, and it does not stop for anyone. Life is short, we do not have much time, and what not about how life is unpredictable; many have thrown away what they own only to create something of their own. 

The very notion of individuality has created its own set of rules. It is sometimes hurtful to know how humanity has changed its perspective from collectivism to individualism, only to make it a collective error. It is not wrong in treading on a path one plans for themselves, nothing. Though in the process, there are so many countless chains of reactions that start growing and expanding haywire.

Interiors of a Jain temple_©Kshitij Charania, traditionality

But it’s also surprising to see how we keep falling back on our past, not only to revive it, but also as a lesson on what comes quickly to us goes away quickly. To be modern is a deep aspect of understanding and is almost unfathomable. From mud and clay to bricks and stones to glass and steel, we have shifted our bases. Today, arches as a singular facet of design have been revolutionized by being created through means of permutations and combinations. Not to mention so many more elements seeing a different sun every day. But it’s not modernity at play, but the need for change that comes into the picture. With the rise in demands, the need to drift away seems a feasible possibility. From nuclear families to sole living, the newer currents of urbanism keep washing ashore. The need for quicker outcomes is making us push our limits. It’s not modernity that needs to be blamed, but our need to keep needing something. 

Are we overburdened with the thought of incorporating tradition in every activity we perform from now onwards? Are we dubbing traditional as outdated and being modern as a necessity? Are our wishes to not follow what’s being laid out, leading us into uncharted territories? There are unending theses on what’s right or not, and yet it is still obscure and will remain so. The problem is that anything being done today is defined as modern. It’s become open-ended and vague.

It’s a never-ending debate on which side to choose, but what matters is whether we are careful enough to retain what we were given. Is it necessary or not to retain it, and at the same time to add something of our own or not? It’s easier to lose something than to keep it preserved. It requires tons and tons of effort to keep our values from being taken away by influences, it’s a toil. But what starts as a test, becomes a habit of looking after, looking after ourselves and the ones to come. If not, are we able to instill the intent of traditionalism in a modern way or the intent of modernity in a traditional way?

There is only one way to end this, by quoting Mr. Steve Jobs.

“Things don’t have to change the world to be important”