Modernization refers to a model of a progressive transition from a ‘pre-modern’ or ‘traditional’ to ‘modern’ society. It makes use of new and innovative technologies for the construction, specifically from glass, steel, and reinforced concrete. Modern society is an industrial society. To modernize a society is, l foremost, to industrialize it.  Whether to progress towards the modern or to preserve the traditional, is the question faced by most of the world. We seek to look for the common ground between the two sides. Often, this integration leads to something new, something open to criticism.

Gangtok- An Agglomeration of cultural influences

With various cultures and religions thriving in unison, Gangtok has proved that ‘unity in diversity’ exists in Sikkim. A state surrounded by three different countries — Tibet in the north, Bhutan in the east, and Nepal in the west -This state unifies them to create their own identity.

Cultural Dynamics

The People of Sikkim consist of three ethnic groups, that is, the Lepcha, the Bhutia, and the Nepali. These myriad Cultures have produced a quintessential Sikkimese Culture that encompasses all ways and walks of life while preserving their own identity.

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The traditional outfit of Bhutia, Lepcha and Nepalese people of the community of Sikkim ©www.instafeed.org

Sikkim has many names. The Lepchas, the original inhabitants, called it Nye-mae-el or `paradise’. The Limbus named it Su Khim or `new house’; while to the Bhutias it was Beymul Demazong or `the hidden valley of rice’. The Nepalese, who migrated from Nepal from the mid-nineteenth century, form the dominant population.

Vernacular way

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Lepcha House ©commons.wikimedia.org

Architectural typologies developed in the Sikkim are in response to climate, and functionality. The materials used are locally available like bamboo, cane, cane leaves, mud, and lime. Nowadays, bricks., stone chips, rock slabs, etc. are also being used. Sloping roofs are a common architecture element in all the typologies because of high rainfall in the region.

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Nepali house in Sikkim ©www.flickr.com
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©www.themedfairedesign.blogspot.com

Traditional environments are sustained extensively in the non-urban half of the world, but with the global expansion of multinationals, they could be threatened with extinction. The concept of ‘mass housing’, which developed with the patronizing disassociation of architects and planners from the people and their perception of the majority of the populace as an unsophisticated ‘mass’, persists today.

Social and Political Dynamics

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©Google Maps

Sikkim is a Himalayan state. Its history, society, economy, resources, and over-all world- view is widely influenced in its neighbourhood and is shared with the commodities across political boundaries. Bhutia, Lamaism (Mahayana Buddhism), traditional north trading across Himalayan will not be understood without reference to Nepalese, Tibetans and Bhutanese in general.

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Population based on Ethnicity ©Google
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Population based on Religion ©Google

Buddhism, which is followed by  27.3 percent of the population, is Sikkim’s second-largest, yet most prominent religion. Established as a Buddhist pilgrimage site in the 1840s, the city became the capital of an independent monarchy after the British rule ended, but became part of India in 1975. It still remains a Tibetan Buddhist hub.

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Rumtek Monastery ©en.wikipedia.org

Tibet’s unique style of architecture influences the Rumtek monastery in Gangtok. A handful of building elements that give Tibetan buildings their unique organic design include:

  • Symmetries in plan and façade design,
  • Slightly trapezoidal building form, heavy at the base (stone rubble foundations) and light on top, generally with wattle and daub walls,
  • A combination of flat roofs with parapets and staled sloping roofs,
  • Detailed articulation of doors, windows, and parapets (including painted frames and wooden overhang decorations)
  • Intricately carved interior timber frame
  • Organic design – buildings appear to grow out of the landscape
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Window detail of Monasteries  ©www.ceptarchives.org

Capitol- The Modern City

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©Google

This Gangtok city is known for experiencing a Buddhist lifestyle and is also connected to the commercial, religious and cultural activities. It has a  mixture of a traditional and modern crowd.

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Namgyal Institute of Tibetology Museum displays rare Lepcha tapestries and Buddhist statues  ©en.wikipedia.org
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Sikkim Assembly, Gangtok  ©en.wikipedia.org

The building form is a take on the Buddhist Tibetan architecture but with the use of concrete instead of vernacular material.

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Sikkim Manipal University Campus, Gangtok  ©en.wikipedia.org

Pedestrian-friendly urban setting

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View of MG Road ©traveltriangle.com

Each road in the city has well-defined walkways where pedestrians can freely walk on the road M.G. Marg is a major commercial street that evolved as a great public space for pedestrianization. It led to a successful public realm.

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Pedestrian walkways  ©www.inditales.com
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Bridge of Deorali  ©www.inditales.com

The ‘Neo-vernacular’

It is controversial whether the built form can be ‘up-to-date’  implying ‘the right practice’ in design. Tradition is realized as the passing on of culture over time and is understood as a collective experience. The hand-over of technical knowledge and the standards of a society embodied in its built structures, such tradition cannot be ‘by itself’, isolated, preserved, and individual to reality. On a contrary point, tradition is a complex taken over from the past, lived in the present, and sustained in the future.

Reference Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modernization_theory

https://www.britannica.com/topic/modernization

https://www.dbuniversity.ac.in/location/sikkim.html

http://www.knowtheworld.in/sikkim/

https://www.census2011.co.in/data/religion/state/11-sikkim.html

http://www.sikkimtourism.gov.in/Webforms/General/Introduction.aspx

https://planologie.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/tibetan-traditional-architecture-the-vernacular-under-fire/

Oliver, P. (2006). Built to meet needs: Cultural issues in vernacular architecture.

Chatterjee, S., 2017. Pedestrianisation Of Commercial Street Into A Successful Socio-Economic Realm – A Case Of Predestination Walking Activity Recognition Of M.G.Marg, Gangtok, India. Journal for Studies in Management and Planning, [online] 3(7). Available at: <https://www.academia.edu/36318491/Pedestrianisation_Of_Commercial_Street_Into_A_Successful_Socio-_Economic_Realm_-_A_Case_Of_Predestination_Walking_Activity_Recognition_Of_M.G.Marg_Gangtok_India?auto=download> [Accessed 22 April 2020].

Anchal Tibrewal
Author

Anchal Tibrewal is a young architect and a nature enthusiast. Her work has led her to believe in the minute details that make all instances of architecture a reality. She is driven towards a sustainable design that has a strong relationship with the contexts it represents.

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