India is a land of cultures and traditions, it has a magnificent history behind, and it is a vast mix of a variety of people from various castes and tribes, from various places around the world who have come settled and made this place their home. It is vibrant and colorful, it has aromas, it has scents, it has a strong mythological background and an interesting and unique history in architecture and urban planning. Ranging from the smart planning of Harappa civilization back in ancient India, to the enormous Himalayan mountain range in the northeast of the country, from the Western Ghats, the Sahyadri mountain range spanning almost the entire western coastal part of the country to the plethora of villages in the interiors, India is a mine of traditional richness, probably at its best. Every part of the country has something to offer.
Architectural photography does not necessarily mean taking pictures of the buildings. It’s an experience that helps you understand the richness of the country through the lens of its architectural variety. All architectural elements in the country play a vital role in narrating its history and its current state. It also does help us understand how the indigenous communities have survived and sustained merely on regional materials and techniques. Architectural photography lastly, does help us understand how architecture was a response to climatic adverse conditions and how it has changed over the centuries, its purpose, its presentation, display, and its users.
1. Leh Palace
King Senge Namgyal built the Leh Palace, also known as Lachen Palkar Palace in the earlier 15th century at the base of the Tsemo ridge, in the Himalayas. Built out of soil, rocks, and wood, standing tall in a region of intense seismic activity, the palace building has stood the test of time and again.
2. Wagah Border gate
Wagah border is one place every Indian must visit at least once in a lifetime. Every day the lowering of the flag ceremony happens at sunset and this place has thousands of visitors to experience this ceremony.
3. India Gate, New Delhi
It’s a 42 m high structure built in stone, standing in the geometric centre of New Delhi. It’s a war memorial to commemorate the 70000 Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the British Army during World War I. Another memorial, Amar Jawan Jyoti was added much later, after India got its independence, in the memory of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.
4. Bahai house of worship (Lotus temple)
The lotus temple in New Delhi is one of the rarest examples of modernist architecture that blends in with the landscape and yet stands out as a distinct monument of architecture. Its form was evolved out of a cohesive analysis being a common symbol in Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Islam.
5. Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur, Rajasthan
The Jawahar Kala Kendra is built on the concept of Navagraha (nine planets) concept of Indian astronomy and resembles the square-grid plan of Jaipur city as well. The murals from Jain mythology, the charts, and paintings on the ceiling of the central dome give it a character and language that has made it stand out as an important architectural monument in the Indian context.
6. The South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre, New Delhi
Built with a space and budget constraint, the construction typology and materials used, all come together to shape up this brick magic experience to the eyes. The external wall is conceived as an animated, dynamic skin reflecting the bustle of the street and activating what would otherwise have been a mundane façade with minimal fenestrations. The porosity of the wall maintains a degree of privacy at the same time playfully engaging with the street.
7. Kailasa Temple, Ellora, Maharashtra
Scooped out of a monolith rock, and carved its way down from the top, contradicting all norms of architecture, the Kailasa temple at Ellora dating back to the 8th century, is considered one of the most impressive cave temples in India.
8. Chand Baori, Rajasthan
Built during the 8th and the 9th centuries, Chand Baori is one of the largest step-wells in the world. The 64 feet deep stepwell in Abhaneri village of Rajasthan has made its presence worldwide. Stepwells evolved as a solution to rising water shortage and to provide water in the deserts of Rajasthan and Gujarat.
9. IIM Ahmedabad
A visit to Ahmedabad would be considered incomplete without being to this marvellous IIM campus. One cannot resist the combination created here in bricks and concrete by Louis Khan, as he was approached by B V Doshi for this project. The structure is a signature model of the architect and known across the globe for its porosity, which is an important factor in institutional architecture.
10. CEPT Ahmedabad
The CEPT University is a campus that invites you in and welcomes you like you are a part of it for ages, a campus that blends perfectly in its context and sits like it belonged there since the evolution of the earth. Constructed during the same time as the IIM, the CEPT University has a humane scale to its architectural form. Bricks and concrete spread across the campus seem more like a part of the natural surroundings than a man-made enclosure.
11. Ahmedabad Textile Mill Owners’ Association House, Ahmedabad
Ahmedabad Textile Mill Owners’ Association is one of Le Corbusier’s remarkable works in Ahmedabad. The light is moderated by a detached screen – a ‘free façade’ that is anchored to the building frame yet independent of the same, which is the key highlight element, to be observed both from inside as well as the exteriors. The curves, straight lines, double walls, free columns, and dramatic mezzanines of the building cast complex shadows.
12. Kanchanjunga Apartments, Mumbai
Standing tall and significantly unique in its architectural character in the Mumbai skyline, Kanchanjunga is almost impossible to miss. The massive terraces, voids in the built mass staggering with every floor, the vibrant walls of these terraces, and the brown furniture laid down to enjoy the evening sun setting against the concrete skyline of Mumbai, are just perfectly woven into each other to form the Kanchanjunga in south Mumbai. Kanchanjunga has characters of vernacular architecture smoothly transformed into the south Mumbai luxury housing apartment building, a task only the late Charles Correa could have done efficiently.
13. Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
Built during the second half of the 16th century, Fatehpur Sikri was the capital of the Mughal empire for a decade. It is a city-wide architectural marvel in red stone, having a mystery of its past. 54 meters tall Bulund Darwaza is the first thing you witness and are impressed by its sheer scale. It is followed by Jami Masjid, Daulat khana, Deewan E Aam, Deewan E Khas, Jodha bai’s palace, Anup Talao, etc.
14. Meenakshi Amman Temple, Madurai
Located in Madurai, and also known as Meenakshi Sundareshwara Temple, it is one of the oldest and important temple complexes in India. Spread across 14 acres of land, this temple resembles a mandala in its aerial view or plan. The most beautiful part of the temple is the four main towering gateways which are called gopurams. Each one of them is a multi-storey structure and displays thousands of mythological stories and several other sculptures. It’s interesting and amusing to know how stories are weaved along these structures, and displayed in the form of sculptures and other murals.
15. Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is an astronomical observation site dating back to the early 18th century. This is the most significant, most comprehensive, and the best-preserved historic observatories in India. An observatory has a different language of architecture; more technical than being fancy. The equipment and their placement play a vital role in the design of a building of this kind. It would be interesting to study how the structure of this character would be designed today with the techniques and materials available.
16. Mysore Palace, Mysore
Mysore palace is one of the finest examples of Indo-Saracenic styles of architecture in the country. Islamic motifs and Rajput style of construction combine with Gothic elements and indigenous materials to create the grandeur called the Mysore Palace. It’s difficult to keep your eyes on one element of the structure, as each one has its beauty and importance in the structure. The sumptuous interiors of the palace, in keeping with the grand exteriors, are replete with exquisitely carved doors, expansive pavilions, delicate chandeliers, exquisite stained-glass ceilings and decorative frescoes depicting scenes from the Indian epics.
17. Ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi, Karnataka
Hampi is a solo traveler’s paradise, they say. The ruins, the stone chariots, the massive stone temples, and the mountainous terrain of the neighborhood, makes it a perfect place to visit for an architecture shoot. Light falling at different times of the day highlights different elements in the structures. It’s the lifestyle, and architecture of the city that is interwoven into a single fabric that we get to experience.
18. Rani Ki Vav, Patan Gujarat
It was built on the banks of the Saraswati river in the 11th century. Stepwells were constructed to provide water all round the year in the drought-prone areas, like deserts of Gujarat and Rajasthan. They began as a simple unit to reach water and evolved into elaborate multi-storey works of art and architecture. Rani ki Vav in Patan, Gujarat is a massive stepwell built in sandstone, has seven flights of stairs with elaborate carved structural walls to retain lateral pressure of soil and further reinforced with stone beams spanning across the width of the structure. It is approximately 25 m deep and has a 10m diameter well to its southern end. The stone carvings and the architectural formation, though in its simplicity makes the step-well even more elegant and graceful than what it already is.
19. The Temple Complex at Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
The temples at khajuraho are not new to the world. People have been flocking to this place to experience the most intricate stonework done in Indian temples. The light then falling on to these carved out sculptures on the temple walls cast a game of shadows that becomes irresistible to neglect. Stories have been carved out in stone on the walls and it has taken decades to construct these architectural gems that we see today. Winter is the best time to visit when the fog slightly clears and the shikhara starts to glow with the rising sun.
20. Fountanhas, Goa
Goa has an image of parties, nightlife, alcohol, and all such sorts attached to it. Unfortunately, or thankfully the best part of Goa has never become popular, which is the heritage district, the Fountanhas. A part of the Panjim patto plaza, Fountanhas is the most vibrant part of the even more vibrant Goa. White cathedrals and the colorful buildings along the streets cannot be described in words, but are meant to be experienced first-hand. Humane scale, less to no vehicular nuisance, surprising elements at every corner, and the fragrance of seafood lingering in the air, are the welcoming and inviting factors. Windows made out of seashells, walls painted in natural colours, and eyes on the street make you feel a part of the place and there is nothing that can beat this.
Architectural photography is a cohesive collection of the buildings, the history, lifestyle of people, indigenous elements, foods, traditions, and cultural practices of a place. It is an experience shooting all of these elements. We learn a lot about our country, its people, their state, their life, their food, their houses, their places of work, and so on. It adds on a feather in our knowledge base and helps us look at things with a different perspective, a clearer and wider one.