Architecture in South Asia:
The world has been through numerous timelines, histories and reigns; where architecture stands as the silent records. In the South Asian region, architecture has been rich and significant since prehistoric times, but there came some pioneers, who showed a new direction to build the present. These pioneers of architecture are known as the master architects, their works, ideals and philosophies guided whole generations towards the new era of architecture and design. The South Asian countries, for instance, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka have had such master architects who brought the dawn of modern design towards the future.
The master architects are the icons of architecture, the true masters of their craft. The world has seen many architects in many timelines and the masters are those who made a difference. India is one of the most significant countries of South Asia in many perspectives, architecture is one of them. Other countries, such as Bangladesh and Sri Lanka have seen some marvelous architects who have set examples of excellent architectural edifices that are beyond time and trend.
Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi:
Mr. Balkrishna Doshi was one of the most significant architects in the history of Indian architecture who had received the highest level of appreciation in not only national grounds but also in international platforms. He was born in 1927 in Pune, India and died in January, 2023. His glorious career was jeweled with a Pritzker Prize as the first Indian architect to receive such honor. He has received the Padma Shree, Padma Bhushan as national appreciation. Doshi has had a wonderful career with more than 100 projects, experience of working with other masters of architecture; Le Corbusier, Louis I Kahn and Anant Raje. His most famous works include the CEPT University Campus, the IIM in Udaipur, Aranya Low-cost Housing which earned the Aga Khan Award, Sangath and Amdavad ni Gufa etc. He was mostly known for his modernist and brutalist approach in architecture in India.
Charles Correa has been another pioneer in the architectural grounds of South Asia. His innovative ideas, dynamic geometry, choice of materials and interweaved traditions of India have made his projects unique and timeless. He was not just an architect, but an urban planner too. He has designed many conceptual projects such as the Jawaharlal Kala Kendra, where he fused traditional architecture, ancient astronomy and contemporary architecture in a melting pot. On the other hand, projects like the Kanchanjunga apartments, The Tube House, Champalimaud Centre reflect his ultimate modernistic approach in architecture. The Belapur Housing shows a down to earth approach for a local community, and the National Crafts Museum, Bharat Bhavan shows his mastery of holding the deep roots of India in his architecture. From all his projects, his versatility and sensibility are glorified in all aspects.
Raj Rewal is another master architect of India who was born in 1934 in Punjab. He is one of those significant architects who has had a long and diverse work experience in international fields. Before starting his career in India, he started working in Paris. He also had his office in Tehran alongside India. He has been honored with many prestigious awards for his works, including Asian Games Village, Central Institute of Education Technology, CIDCO Housing, Coal India Complex etc.
Muzharul Islam is known as the Grand Master of Regional Modernism in South Asia. He was born in 1923 in Murshidabad, later pursuing his graduation in Architecture from the USA. He has been a light bearer of the modern architecture in Bangladesh, who has had experience of working with Louis I Kahn, Paul Rudolph and Stanley Tigerman. He has worked for a new identity of Bangladeshi architecture with an essence deeply rooted in the history, tradition and climate of the country. He experimented with light, space, concept and materials to play with the contemporary style of his own. He undoubtedly is the greatest architect in the history of Bangladeshi architecture. His most significant works include Charukala Institute, Jahangirnagar University, Chittagong University, Mausoleum of Kazi Nazrul Islam etc.
Bashirul Haq is another pioneer in Bangladeshi architecture, who is regarded as one of the most influential architects of South Asia. He has been an architect, planner and teacher in his life. Bashirul Haq was born in 1942, died in 2020. He graduated from the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan. Then he moved to the USA and completed his masters from the University of New Mexico. After this he started working for Kallmann McKinnell in Boston. In 1975, the post-independence situation was devastating Bangladesh. He decided to come back to his homeland even after getting many lucrative offers abroad. In 1977, he established Bashirul Haq & Associates and started practicing. In his 46 years of career, he designed more than 300 buildings. He was highly inspired by Alvar Aalto and Also Rossi. Some of his significant works are; Chhayanaut, Kalindi Apartment Complex, Architect’s Family Home and Studio, US Chancery Building, Cyclone resistant Housing in Cox’s Bazar etc.
British-born Indian architect Lawrence Wilfred was born on 22 March 1917 and died on 1 April 2007. He was also known as Laurie Baker. He was famous for his efforts in energy-efficient architecture and designs that maximized light, ventilation, and space while maintaining a clean aesthetic sensibility. He was highly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi and his own experiences in the distant Himalayas. He was a master of organic and sustainable architecture, incorporating principles like rainwater collection, reducing the use of energy-inefficient building materials, and blending with the environment into his designs. He is called the ‘Gandhi of architecture’ for his social and humanitarian endeavors. His famous works are Fishermen’s Village, The Indian Coffee House, Chapel for Sacred Hearts Centre, Allahabad Agricultural University, Chitralekha Film Studio etc.
Geoffrey Manning Bawa studied modernism and its cultural connotations and developed a distinctive, identifiable architectural aesthetic that had a long-lasting influence on other architects all over the world. Bawa was one of the founding members of Tropical Modernism, a design movement that combines the local context with modernist form-making ideas. He was well-versed in modernist theory. The government of Sri Lanka gave Bawa the title Deshamanya in 2001 and the Chairman’s Award of the Aga Khan Special Chairman’s Award for Architecture in 2001. He has designed numerous spectacular buildings; Parliament Building of Sri Lanka, Lunuganga Resort, Bentota Beach Resort, Kandalama Hotel, Anne De Silva House, Ruhuna University Campus etc. can be mentioned.
Minnette de Silva:
Minnette de Silva was a striking woman in the field of architecture in Sri Lanka. She was born in 1918 and died in 1998. She was the first Sri Lankan woman to be trained as an architect and the first Asian woman to be elected an associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 1948. She was also the first Asian representative of CIAM in 1947 and was one of the founding members of the Architectural publication Marg. Later in her life, she was awarded the SLIA Gold Medal for her contribution to Architecture, in particular her pioneering work developing a ‘regional modernism for the tropics’. Her remarkable works include the Siriwardene House, Karunaratne House, Kalkudah Seaside Resort, Jinaraja College and many other significant projects.
Habib Fida Ali:
Habib Fida Ali was one of Pakistan’s most prominent architects working in the modernist approach. He was born in 1935 and died in 2017. He was the first student from Pakistan to study at the London-based Architectural Association School of Architecture, where he earned his degree in 1962. He came back to Pakistan in 1963 and in 1965 he started his own office. He has been the National Vice President of the Institute of Architects, Pakistan (IAP) and Member of Master Jury, Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 1983. Habib Fida Ali had worked on the following architectural projects; Shell House, Cavish Court, Karachi, Bait-ul-Sukoon, Police Hospital Garden Karachi etc.
Yasmeen Lari is known as Pakistan’s first female architect. She attended Oxford Polytechnic, where she launched her career by creating a series of bold brutalist homes in the 1960s and 1970s. In the end, she made the decision to retire in 2000 so that she could focus on writing books about Pakistan’s architectural heritage and the Heritage Foundation. She was awarded the prestigious Jane Drew Award, which recognizes women’s contributions to architecture, in March in London in celebration of her unselfish humanitarian work over the past 20 years. Her career has been spectacular, yet she joins a remarkable club of previous winners that includes Liz Diller, Denise Scott Brown, and Zaha Hadid. Her career, however, has been unlike any other, spanning lavish corporate monuments to simple shelters made with the local materials. Her notable works include the Taj Mahal Hotel in Karachi, the Women’s Center, the Angoori Bagh Housing, the Finance and Trade Center, and the Pakistan State Oil House, among others.
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