From two individuals to something as big as cultures, design is a dialogue between visual ideas. In today’s day and age, colonialism remains one of the most influential factors in history. In the 15th and 16th centuries, several colonial empires surrounded the world and ruled over lands and cultures. Over 400 years, the Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and British claimed and conquered lands all over the globe. A Colonial architecture style can be categorized as Baroque, Orientalism, or Art Nouveau. 

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Colonialism and [email protected]://whygoindochina.com/

When people immigrated from one part of an empire to another, their architecture was often hybridized with the style of the ruler in whose area they lived. Europeans paved their way to the Indian subcontinent while trading spices. For ease of transport and connections, they began to set up their base in India by constructing ports. British, Dutch, Portuguese, and French were also part of this. In the 19th century, the British emerged as the ultimate colonial power to rule India after several rulers made their mark on Indian history. 

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Iglesia de la Companía de Jesús, Cusco, Peru_©McKay Savage https://www.ba-bamail.com/art/15-superb-colonial-era-buildings-across-the-globe/

The Impacts of Colonization on Architecture

There have been lasting impacts of British rule around the world. Experiments with government forms to explore technology have been revolutionary during the 18th to 20th centuries.As their rule flourished, they built magnificent structures that served as evidence of their power and supremacy. They started by building ports, docks, warehouses, and forts across the borders to establish a network of transport. Over time, they built structures that served administrative, religious, and institutional purposes. In addition to developing infrastructure, their expanse connected the two cities with architecturally great structures. Railways, roads, bridges, and other transit activities were developed at that time. 

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Gateway of India_©https://commons.wikimedia.org/

The concept of colonization has never been confined to simply conquering one civilization; it has always extended beyond that. Through architecture, modern colonies have also left their mark on former colonies. In some ways, colonized countries’ history and identity are reflected in their architecture. This journey through time illustrates the impact of colonialism on Indian architecture. 

Architecture of British 

Indian colonial powers endured for long periods, and the British built many timeless structures throughout the country. Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai were the basis of their power, where the Indo – Gothic architecture flourished. Taking advantage of prime locations in the city, British offices scaled up from small houses to big administrative buildings. Following Indian architectural styles, the British adopted their architectural style. Merging with the Indian context, it was then called Indo – Gothic architecture. Ornate facade decorations, pointed arches, vaulted ceilings, full-height stained-glass windows, flying buttresses, domes, turrets, and spires distinguish this style of architecture. 

The Mumbai High Court architecture was designed by British engineer Col. J.A. Fuller and constructed between 1871 and 1878. As one of India’s oldest courts, the Bombay High Court was founded in 1862. With four stories and 562 feet in length, the High Court building is 178 feet tall at its tallest point. The ground floor, three upper levels, and a magnificent atrium make up over 80,000 square feet of the original building’s built-up space.

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Bombay High Court_©https://indianlawwatch.com/

Known as Victoria Terminus, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus is a great example of Indo-Gothic architecture. In addition to being a sandstone and limestone building, it now houses state offices and railway terminals. 

CSTM_© ShyamhariChakra https://thesamikhsya.com/national/

The architecture of the French 

Pondicherry, Yanaon, and Chandan Nagar were the established hubs of the French colonies in India. With the base of India’s vernacular architecture French modified their architectural slide. Taking into consideration the climate and location, shutter windows, dormers, round towers, chimneys, and a sloping roof were added. 

There is a clear distinction between the overlap of the two architectural styles in Pondicherry, which is a classic example of this type of blend. Pondicherry’s French colony is characterized by smaller intricate details, bright colours, signboards written in French, windows, and ornamented facades. 

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Old Pondicherry_© https://sarmaya.in/spotlight/pondicherry-dreaming-inside-french-india/

The architecture of the Dutch 

The Dutch’s rule over India was very limited to the areas of Kerala and the Coromandel coast. Kochi is one of the oldest Dutch settlements in India. One of the oldest Dutch constructions in India is the Bolgatty Palace in Kochi. Additionally, the Dutch warehouse headquarters, St Francis Church, and Old Harbour Hotel are all thriving in Kochi.

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Dutch architecture in Kerala_© https://sarmaya.in/spotlight/pondicherry-dreaming-inside-french-india/

The architecture of the Portuguese 

Before 1961, the Portuguese ruled Goa for more than 400 years, establishing the naval route to India through the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea. Many of the local home designs were Portuguese-influenced. Extra attention is paid to the railing; it is one of the most elaborate features of the house. With thick walls built of stone without mortar, the roofs are generally slanted to drain rainwater.

Portuguese architecture in Goa_©https://sarmaya.in/spotlight/pondicherry-dreaming-inside-french-india/

The architecture of the colonial era was assimilated into the diverse traditions of India. As a result of the British Raj’s focus on India, other innovations were made during the European Industrial Revolution. Eventually, the involvement led to more experimental styles such as the Art Deco movement, and Le Corbusier became an internationally renowned architect. The fusion of classical Indian architecture and modern Indian architecture has been an ongoing trend ever since. India’s colonial architecture is a reminder of times long ago, both a glimpse into the past and a reminder of the present.

References 

  1. Ram, S. (2018) British architectural monuments of India, https://www.nativeplanet.com. Nativeplanet. Available at: https://www.nativeplanet.com/travel-guide/british-architectural-monuments-india-002496.html?story=3 ( 
  2. Amrita Amesur / November 18, 2021 / S. (2021) Pondicherry dreaming – inside French India, Sarmaya. Available at: https://sarmaya.in/spotlight/pondicherry-dreaming-inside-french-india/ 
  3. Bureau, S. (2020) Retaining its vintage look, CSMT Mumbai would have a majestic facelift, The Samikhsya. Available at: https://thesamikhsya.com/national/retaining-its-vintage-look-csmt-mumbai-would-have-a-majestic-facelift  
Author

Radhika is a storyteller first and an architect second. She believes that architecture is a powerful tool to address society. It is one of the easiest forms of art which is directly used and understood by every person, for ages. She is a writing enthusiast, who loves to capture the world and her ideas with pen, paper and lens.

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