India is a country with a rich history of culture, art and architecture. What shaped India’s rich history is its rulers over the past centuries and the architecture of their time. Every period had a style of its own. Likewise, every region had a style of its own. Hence, India is considered a land of diversity. It has witnessed a mix of cultures, ideologies and styles. Indian architecture can be understood as one before independence and the one after it. Both share great importance and add to the historic value of the country.
The history of Indian architecture dates back to 3000 BC with Indus valley civilization to 1947 AD Indo Saracenic Architecture. The history is a culmination of the beautiful Mahajanapada period with stupas, viharas and the stories of Ajanta and Elora.
The middle-age architecture, with importance given to temple architecture in the north and the south, followed by the Mughal architecture, took over the history with various palaces, forts, tombs and mosques built. During the British Rule, architectural interventions have been witnessed in and around four major capitals: Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai and Chennai.
The colonial architecture was a combination of Indo Saracenic architecture and most buildings just before independence have been designed in a similar style. Various institutional buildings like the Parliament, Secretariat, High courts, colleges and government buildings came up during this period. Interesting features of the colonial-style included domes, overhanging eaves, vaulted roofs, cusped arches, chhatris, minarets and towers and harem windows. These were combined with Gothic revival and Neoclassical styles that included: colonnades, rectangular windows, portico, plaster and plaster russification.
The post-independence period was a state of dilemma for the country. Indian architecture was facing an identity crisis in terms of adopting the historical style or British style or beginning something completely new while creating a new India. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime minister of India, had a vision for the country for its development in art and architecture. The stepping stone to this was designing Chandigarh. Hence, Le Corbusier was invited to design this new capital that became an epitome and a powerful symbol for new India that looked forward to Modern Architecture in the post-independence period.
While some believed in adopting the Indian practices before British rule, some thought that architecture was an expression of its time and that reviving New India should include newer architectural symbols for the future generation. Famous architects like Charles Correa, B.V Doshi, Raj Rewal, Achyut Kanvinde, and many more have contributed immensely to post-independence architecture.
Here are a few architectural expressions seen in post-Independence architecture:
1. Geometric forms
New geometries were explored using Reinforced Cement concrete as the new typical material for public buildings. The material offered great flexibility and a shorter construction time. Hence, various voids and geometries were explored, as seen in Mill Owners Association Building, Ahmedabad, designed by Le Corbusier.
2. Designing according to Microclimate
Charles Correa’s works have inspired many people to consider the local environment while designing every building. His designs played a great role in creating pleasant indoor spaces that depended on natural light and ventilation, like the Jawahar Kala Kendra.
3. Brutalist Architecture
Brutalism was a bold and aggressive expression of building design. It was exposing the building as it is, without coating it with any additional elements. It showed the true form and construction technique and the original material. Most brutalist buildings were constructed using concrete. IIT Kanpur, designed by Achyut Kanvinde, follows the principles of Brutalist Architecture.
4. Using Brick and concrete as building material
Brick was used as one of the prime construction materials for a long time. Now, it was being combined with concrete to create different shapes and openings. Brick also gave a natural, earthy tone to the building that fits well with the surroundings. IIM Ahmedabad is a great example of brick construction. Louis Kahn has designed the entire campus very interestingly.
Regionalism focused on combining newer techniques with traditional styles. These included using Vedic principles, traditional vocabulary, use of local materials, response to the climate and social aspects of living. Projects by Raj Rewal like the Asian Games Village in New Delhi broke the form into multiple courtyards that create socially and environmentally liveable environments.
Today, even though India has progressed in various fields, it still remains rooted in its history. That is why Indian architecture is not completely Modern. With great architects, Indian architecture managed to blend modernism and vernacular elements, reminding it of its roots catering not only to its history but also the climatic condition. The use of deep overhangs, chhatris, jalis, pergolas, balconies, courtyards and shading devices have remained as key features in many buildings.
Indian modernism is not simply about form, function or materials. It is most importantly about the feel and the experience a user encounters. The new India is about modernism that is a diverse form in itself by the blend of Indian elements of regionalism, functional approach to a space, social acceptance and inclusivity, economic opportunities, climate responsiveness and the behaviour of the built with its unbuilt environment. This is what makes the Indian architecture post-independence.
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