Undoubtedly, one of the greatest achievements of Indian civilizations is the rich diversity of cultural and traditional dialect, influenced by the socio-economic and geographic conditions of that era. This has, in turn, influenced the architecture in a way that each style becomes the beacon of the technology. If one were to notice, the most important buildings of any era were always built based on the traditional building methods with a strong sense of cultural importance.
History shows that these (nearly) 2000-year-old structures withstand the tests of time and hence are still studied as best examples of Indian architecture. Various studies are currently focusing on decoding these building techniques and establish a formal method to apply them in the present era.
The era of Cultural Architecture
In a brief span of 500 years, transportation and information exchange have improved greatly, which partly led to the dilution of cultural principles. The exchange of information greatly influenced the style of buildings and the materials selected. Thus, a new culture arose at the end of every era. Special craftsmen and artisans were then the key members of construction, while merchants acted as the seeds of influence.
The traditions of the past have had deep roots in their cultural practices. In the era where human-made materials were unheard of, people naturally resorted to locally available materials, and available in excess. For example, The North-eastern regions of India host a variety of Bamboo, Timber, and Mud constructions (Wattle and Daub) as its native architecture while the Southern regions have resorted to Stones, Boulders, and sometimes entirely of Clay/Mud.
The Modern Culture
Today’s culture highly revolves around economics, technology, energy efficiency, and formal science. We no longer follow the age-old cultural practices, but only carry forward a few select aspects as tradition. For example, we have moved from Traditional Bricks to Wire cut – kiln baked ones, from terracotta to vitrified tiles, etc. For the – so-called – modern civilization, the importance of the end product is greater than the importance of the process. This cultural mindset arises as a result of extensive population growth and the need to accommodate the masses.
A shift in the design sensibilities
Recent advancements in the field of material studies, as well as construction techniques, have proved that the way to go forward is to have the right mix of current (modern) technology and past principles. Various businesses today are focussed on low-impact designs, sustainable architecture, and on adapting traditional designs, keeping in mind today’s requirements such as economics, speed of constructability, and maintenance.
One such company in Mumbai – Carbon Crafts Designs – has been successful in creating floor tiles from carbon collected from the atmosphere. It seems that this company has found the right balance by employing traditional craftsmen for manufacturing while relying on modern technology to procure the material. Further, the effort also addresses one of the modern-day problems of air pollution.
Building with Fire is another example where Architect Anupama Kundoo showcases how one can use traditional materials clubbed with modern techniques to create buildings that are suitable for today’s era.
The right foot forward
One of the optimal directions to move forward would be to identify new points of balance between historical practices and modern requirements. The thought of experimentation needs to be encouraged more – in architectural schools as well in practice – to make sure while one group of people can validate the ideas, the other can keep inventing new methods.
Image Sources: The Matri Mandir ©Pinterest
Cultural and Traditional Indian architecture needs to be sustainable. But the definition of sustainability changes with time, and highly depends on the socio-economic and cultural aspects of the civilization in that era. Today, our cultural principles are changing once again as we become more aware of the harm our technology has brought upon this planet. We are resorting to green and sustainable architecture once again. In Parallel, we are also rapidly exploring new methods and techniques that contribute to the same goals.
To sum it up, Architecture is an ever-evolving dialogue between the past and the future. Indian architecture has all the necessary tools and resources to progress, and at the same time, learn from its rich history. All it requires is a push from the right influencing factor in the right direction. One such factor might be media, trying to promote public awareness.
It is high time that the common man is made aware of the direction, Indian Architecture is tilted towards. As we continue to find the right balance between history and futurism, we also need to cater to the current needs and restore the values of the cultural identity of each individual. Such an approach to architecture will definitely withstand the test of time, and in turn, become sustainable.
Further Reading and Resources
- Sustainability: Integrating traditional and Modern Architecture