“Architecture is not a movable feast, like music.” It is not something that gets changed itself with the growing evolution of art and technology every year but something that should be embraced with each passing decade. “India” is a word that refers to a lot of platitudes. 

From being called a living civilization of timeless traditions to a subcontinent of astonishingly diverse yet harmonious regional and linguistic differences, India has globalized in all respects of being known as what it is known today. 

Architecture in India has always been a thing of curiosity because of its artistic creations and marvelously designed buildings. It reflects the influence of rulers who embossed the country from time to time with their power and control. The country is a mixture of a variety of monuments, religious and modernistic buildings where one can title the buildings as a representation of an era it saw. 

Every street in India smells like a feast of social gatherings and quiet contemplation of the spaces created. We always talk about ‘learning from the past’ to refrain ourselves from committing sins that can affect the country. People have evolved in such a way that they have tried to modernize their traditions. But, why does it have to change completely and cannot be kept the way it is. 

Just like the traditions we have also tried to recreate spaces that have not only impaired our rich culture but also questioned the way we live in our society. So, what are we doing? Scraping off the roots to fit in the shoes of modernity is what seems like we are doing. Being world-class is one of the aspirations for Indian Architecture that every architect seems to swear by. 

Why don’t we put our lives into a rewind mode to recapture post-independence India and conclude what challenges does modernity hold for the traditional practices in India? Is it possible that while embracing our traditions we can still be modern or do we have to give away the traditions?

Approach to architecture in India Sheet1
(https://www.zricks.com/)

Changes In India

Let’s dive into the diverse cultural history and unleash the approaches which made our country what it is today. India after independence though had been liberated by British rule but had some really visible influences over the character of the cities. All the buildings of official importance, the rail routes, and the museums were brought into existence by the rulers. 

Just after independence, the pressure was to create more shelter spaces for the suddenly rising population due to partition. Functional designs, a minimalistic approach, and preparing houses with basic amenities was one side of the coin that the majority of architects were up to while the rest had modernistic views dedicated to art and culture for enhancing the aesthetics of the form. 

By the end of this time, the glamour and prestige of modern architecture were casting a spell on people who wanted the country to move on with the changing times, the rest started to fear the loss of heritage. India has come far from the era when only the traditional designs were the available choice for living. 

Traditional architecture has remained dynamic by evolving over the years while keeping in mind the necessity of housing in society. On the other hand, modern architecture became popular in the late 19th century creating revolutions in the building materials to be used as well as to abandon certain vernacular architectural styles and invent something new and functional. 

I bet all of us have dreamt about walking down the streets and imagining the spaces filled with glass facades and steel structures all around, waiting for us to break into those dreamy houses and become a part of their edifice. But, is it actually what we need? Has the glamour put a layer of dust on those edifices withstanding a high level of ethical commitment? Do you not feel the urge of making or building an environment where traditionality is the basis of bringing in modern features? I know not all will agree here but I do believe, the stronger the roots, the more stable the image becomes. 

But, the influence of western culture and the urge to replicate an “internationally accepted” construction style has led to the neglect of traditional building solutions. The younger generations look for an increased level of comfort in their houses and such standards can be maintained only by using modern devices which have a high energy demand. With the grand entry of mechanized cooling systems natural cooling systems, like ventilation from the windows, provision of open spaces, courtyard areas, etc., were being replaced at full speed without thinking about the harm it would cause both physically, mentally, and ecologically. 

However, if we carefully contemporize traditional solutions it is possible to reduce the energy and use an architectural approach to build more pleasant buildings. See how easy it is if you just merge the qualitative values of one another making it a useful product for progressive India.

Approach to architecture in India Sheet2
(https://s3da-design.com/)
Approach to architecture in India Sheet3
(https://domz60.wordpress.com/)

“You can host the same concert in three different places, but you can’t replicate the buildings across the world.” The buildings cannot have a repetitive design and must respond to the context. All of this can be taken care of by interpreting the vernacular architecture to initiate something truly appropriate. Despite knowing the pros and cons of traditionality and modernity it seems that we have completely erased the connection between the user and space. The debate of form follows function or function follows form should not fade the purpose that the building was meant to serve. 

The vision is quite clear as more and more buildings are being made future-ready, by integrating features such as optimum floor heights and proper ventilation. I strongly believe that it is the tradition that should be brought into existence and some of the modern features are endorsed into these structures for a smooth symbiotic flow between the two. Traditional techniques are not only cost-effective but also are sustainable enough to meet the upcoming challenges. 

I know being inclined towards traditions might sound weird in an era of technology but, this so-called “tech-savvy” generation has led to some of the most disastrous incidents taking place throughout the world. These traditions have been nothing but applied sciences and technology like Vastu-Shastra. Have you ever thought about why the flyovers or the skyscrapers are failing while the fort and traditional houses remain unaffected or intact?

The simple reason is the use of materials and construction techniques. Being rooted in the traditions gives way to a much stable and responsive structure with a blend of modern elements without having to compromise its aesthetics. But, as I said, magnificence just got replaced with relevance.

Approach to architecture in India Sheet4
(https://en.wikipedia.org/)
Approach to architecture in India Sheet5
(https://en.wikipedia.org/)

Strength Lies In Cohesion Of The Differences And Not In Similarities

Back to the basics seems to be one of the trends in architecture. The definition of modern is no longer blindly following the western culture but what tactics were done in the past to use resources in an optimized manner is being looked into again. So can modern and traditional coexistmight change for every individual. But we could state for a fact that if the design is solely technology-driven or social customs driven the doom of architecture is surely foreseen. It’s the true cohesion of modern and traditional that can change the existing scenario. 

While there is shrinkage in spaces vertical development is undoubtedly a necessary solution but the importance of living close to nature is again occupying the centre of thoughts. Unless and until we modernize the traditions and traditionalize modernity we cannot make a remarkable contribution to mankind. In today’s discourse, we don’t need any staunch believers of modernity or traditions but an eye for envisioning that “Strength lies in the cohesion of the differences and not in similarities.” 

References

ENGAGING ARCHITECTURE IN INDIA- TRANSITIONAL RURALITY: LESSONS FROM HINTERLAND – The Architects Diary. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2021, from https://thearchitectsdiary.com/engaging-architecture-in-india/

India’s history of modern architecture. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2021, from https://www.stirworld.com/think-opinions-india-s-history-of-modern-architecture

The Changing Trends in Indian Architecture – HousingMan.com. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2021, from https://www.housingman.com/news/the-changing-trends-in-indian-architecture/

The Indian Architect Who Bridged Tradition and Modernity | by Charlotte Luxford | The Omnivore | Medium. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2021, from https://medium.com/the-omnivore/the-indian-architect-who-bridged-tradition-and-modernity-93d68db9ea22

Traditional Architecture versus Modern Architecture | S3DA DESIGN Structural & MEP Design. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2021, from https://s3da-design.com/traditional-architecture-versus-modern-architecture/

Mansi Mattoo
Author

Mansi is pursuing her graduation from SMVDU, Jand K. She is an avid nature lover and in the perfect environment to pursue her architecture dreams. She looks to becoming the voice for the unspoken emotions depicted in the world of architecture. A keen observer and hard worker is what describes her well.

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