Report published in 2018 JETIR, July 2018, Volume 5

India being a land embedded in history, culture, and religion has had multiple architecture styles through all its eras. From the Hindu temple architecture to the contrasting Indo-Islamic architecture the historical styles are as different as they exist side by side. One of the earliest examples being the Harappan architecture of the Indus Valley civilization had planned cities with brick houses, granaries, streets in grid layouts, and elaborate water supply and drainage systems. The classical period of Indian architecture later began when Hinduism became the predominant religion in India giving birth to the Nagara and Dravidian architecture styles that can be seen in the style of the Hindu temples. This was greatly dominant with great regional variation till the arrival of the Mughals that brought in the grandeur of the Persian influenced Islamic architecture, some of the greatest of them being the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri. 

With the advent of the Europeans came to picture the Indo Saracenic architecture that was a revivalist style used by the British drawing elements from native Indo-Islamic and Indian architecture combined with the Gothic revival and Neo-classical styles. These were widely made for the government and public buildings of the British Raj and the palaces of the princely states. They were adorned with extravagant colonnades, large windows with pediments, pointed arches and towers, classical porticos, and overhanging eaves. Most Indo-Saracenic buildings, upholding indigenous European Neo-classical architecture, can be found in the main centres of the British Raj administration, in particular, Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta as they were known then.

Victoria Memorial, Kolkata ©

Post-Independence Architecture

Since the end of British Colonial rule, there is a massive unexplored region of twentieth-century architectural history that concerns the creation of a post-independence Indian identity. With the colonizers gone the field of architecture was in a state of chaos, facing an identity crisis, not knowing whether to adhere to the history or move on to newer ideas and foundations. Nehru envisioned a New India where Chandigarh was the model showpiece free of the hindrances of colonialism but also secular in meaning: an antidote to the cramped quarters of old towns and an instrument for social change. Le Corbusier, rightly called the father of Modern architecture in India, was invited to design for the change in Chandigarh and Ahmedabad providing solutions to battle the hot-climate with innovative prototypes of traditional principles. The best lessons cross-breed from the works of Le Corbusier and Kahn with their traditional principles of urbanism, climate, and habitation.

Report in Focus: Post Independence Architecture in India: A Search For Identity in Modernism | 2018 JETIR July 2018, Volume 5 - Sheet1
High Court, Chandigarh, by Le Corbusier ©Pinterest

By the 1970s the issue of Indian identity was treated very self-consciously with nationalism wanting to be expressed in every possible cultural representation. Everything built before the independence and born of colonialism was perceived as foreign and antinational. Sides were taken to revive the Indian classical eras and golden ages as well as to view monuments in their context of times. While this debate pertained, architectural education started to establish a foothold in the country, and foreign-educated architects such as Charles Correa, B.V. Doshi, Raj Rewal, Achyut Kanvinde returned home to later produce strong architectural character.

The architectural expressions identified in the Post-Independence period include:

  1. Plastic or geometric forms exploiting the concrete potential

The malleability of concrete was exploited in various geometric forms to express a bold statement of form extending the vocabulary of RCC. The Municipal Council Headquarters of New Delhi is a monument in concrete revealing conjoined towers flanked in a clean curve. The Kanchanjunga apartments with their soaring vertical form with horizontal voids to catch the breezes through double-height balconies act as gardens in the air. Lotus Temple in Delhi exhibits strong forms in exposed concrete inspired by biomimicry. The Prathama Blood Centre in Ahmedabad is custom-designed to emulate a sculptural form that seems to come out like folded paper. IIM Ahmedabad’s new campus with exposed concrete structures follows contemporary modernism.

Report in Focus: Post Independence Architecture in India: A Search For Identity in Modernism | 2018 JETIR July 2018, Volume 5 - Sheet2
IIM Ahmedabad by Louis Kahn
  1. New language of exposed brick and concrete

An indigenous language of brick and concrete came about to offer a powerful new aesthetic making young Indian architects preoccupied with abstract geometry and spatial order. The YMCA Staff housing in Delhi designed for urban living was characterized by the repetition of geometric forms and functional order in the plan. The Central Institute of Educational Technology by Raj Rewal with its fluctuating circulation was punctuated with balconies and chattris to modulate light and shade using sandstone. The National Institute for Faith Leadership in Uttar Pradesh gave a new and bold expression for the Islamic institution where the users could perceive the transparency and honesty in the true state of the materials.

Report in Focus: Post Independence Architecture in India: A Search For Identity in Modernism | 2018 JETIR July 2018, Volume 5 - Sheet3
The Central Institute of Educational Technology, New Delhi by Raj Rewal
  1. Brutalism – a bold and aggressive articulation of structural elements 

The Permanent Exhibition Complex, Pragati Maidan, by Raj Rewal, an in-situ concrete triangular space frame structure creating a column-free exhibition hall is a remarkable architectural and engineering achievement. The State Trading Corporation in New Delhi is another example of expressionism with an exclusive structure of girders and octagonal openings representing a modern correspondence of traditional jalis. The National Dairy Development Board by Achyut Kanvinde presents a large-scale mechanized plant that uses vertical shafts both for natural ventilation and to give rhythm and dramatic silhouette to the built-form. The National Science Centre, Pragati Maidan by Achyut Kanvinde is of vertical volumes rising gradually dominated by the skylights. 

National Dairy Development Board, Delhi by Achyut Kanvinde ©
  1. Harmonizing with the micro context

The India International Centre, New Delhi by Joseph Allen Stein respects the context with a rational understanding of the climate with sun-shaded vaults, jali screens, and courtyards. The Kovalam Resort in Trivandrum by Charles Correa, through sloping roofs and hillside architecture giving each room a sea view, reflected the traditional architecture of Kerala. The Bharat Bhavan in Bhopal an underground cultural center was contextually designed with courtyards, terraces, and social spaces. The IIM in Bangalore by B.V. Doshi using organizational principles of design developed a pursuit of spatial geometry while combining large-scale use of stone with reinforced cement concrete. The Suzlon One Earth Headquarters in Pune by Christopher Benninger integrates a traditional style with a LEED rating of 57% giving climate sensitivity and a Platinum award.

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Kovalam Beach Resort, Kerala by Charles Correa ©
  1. Regionalism 

The regional architecture reflected an amalgamation of modernism with the traditional experience of town planning, and neighborhood clustering harmonizing with nature, climate, and using local materials

  • Traditional experience of town planning 

Tradition had to be approached for the right possibilities and limitations of the present social order not for its superficial effects. Built to house the participants of the ninth Asian Games, this urban neighborhood uses the morphology of the North Indian towns recalling desert cities creating sociable living or working environments. 

  • Regional Building vocabulary 

Many structures often incorporated the sloping roof character with natural tiles as predominant in the traditional architecture

  • Using Vedic principles 

A deep understanding of the Vedic Principles based on a Hindu philosophy was used in the Vidhan Bhavan in Bhopal recalling ancient images to create public spaces on symmetrical axis and gardens within gardens. The Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur was also based on the Vastu Purusha mandala of 9 squares, an analogue of the original city of Jaipur.

  • Usage of local materials 

Lauri Baker’s housing showed the development of a contemporary vernacular architecture evolved from common building practices and a close working relationship between the designer and the workers. The Indian Coffee House in Trivandrum used the local brick to incorporate a play of light and spirals. The Himalayan Village Eco resort is developed using the traditional Kathkunia building techniques that involve stacking dry stones and wood without cement. These cottages stand on tall stone-and-wood pedestals, towering several stories above ground.

  • Responsive to climate 

Charles Correa’s Parekh House in Ahmedabad was a great response to the hot climatic conditions of the city.

  • Shift to social concerns – Clustering 
  • Economical approach 

Belapur Housing in Navi Mumbai is a famous low-cost housing scheme with interesting designs developed by Charles Correa

Image Source: Image 7_Centre for Development Studies in Trivandrum by Laurie Baker

The issue of how to move on to the future while not losing sight of the past was made difficult when an alternate culture was introduced to the pre-existing Indian cultural fabric. After Independence, a major mutation towards modernism could be seen through the works of Louis Kahn and Le Corbusier but this again was not purely the identity of India. Effective Indian architects such as Charles Correa, Raj Rewal, and B.V. Doshi were able to amalgamate vernacular elements into modernism giving it a distinct identity of Indian Architecture. Open courtyards, profound overhangs, shading devices, pergolas, and jali screens were all cleverly used to create an aesthetically appealing climate-responsive design. This novel modernism was not just about form and function but also the ability of the fresh natural elements of nature to effortlessly seep into the spaces. This had to be accessible to the rich and poor alike exploiting all economic possibilities. Thus Indian architecture could be described as a fusion of modernism with traditional insights of regionalism, socialism, climatic responses, energy efficiency, economic approaches, usage of locally sourced materials, and having a more functional and rational approach to design.


Today it has been apparent that the blind adaptation of the West is not tangible to our country and is often inadequate to our climate and culture. Neither does the opposite apply where local traditions are uncritically imitated, as this fails to appraise what is substantial about the past, nor does it address what is required of the present. All in all, architecture needs to have solutions applicable to the problems and technologies of today, and that is where the more recent legacy of Modernism gets significant maintaining a significant fusion of old and new, regional and universal.


An architecture graduate, Merina is a strong believer of the "Less is More" idealogy, a principle which is not only evident in her designs, but one that bleeds into other facets of her life. A passionate writer with an insatiable curiosity for all things design, she is ever ready for soaking in some Vitamin D and a conversation over some freshly brewed chai.