BRIEF STUDY | ARCHITECTS AND ARCHITECTURE | POST INDEPENDENCE INDIA | EXHIBITION | DEPARTMENT OF ARCHITECTURE, TOWN AND REGIONAL PLANNING, B.E.S.U., SHIBPUR
Joseph Allen Stein
First Head of the Department Architecture and Planning Department Bengal Engineering College
Born in 1912 in Omaha, Stein studied under the Finnisharchitect Eliel Saarinen at the Cranbrook Academy in Detroit,Michigan, in the early 1930s. This legendary campus designed
by Saarinen and lled with sculptures by Carl Milles, theSwedish sculptor, inuenced Stein’s Design philosophy. Thedesign approach developed was very different to the Bauhausmodernism then taking hold in Europe, which arrived on the American shores with the immigration of Walter Gropius, Mies Van der Rohe and others just before the Second World War. The
Bauhaus tended to be insensitive to local culture and materials
of building, and advocated hard-edged design philosophy usingindustrial elements. The inuence on Stein, on the other hand, was a view, which incorporated organic materials, brick, stoneand wood, with a willingness to decorate through texture and
volume, yet retaining a simplicity and human scale. Stein moved
to California in 1938 to work with the Austrian Richard Neutra, who became another great inuence. Neutra’s spare, eleganthouses were carefully sited in the California landscape with largeglass vistas blurring the boundaries of interior and exterior.Stein arrived in India in 1952, as head of the newly formed
Architecture and Planning Department at the Bengal Engineering
College in Calcutta in 1952, little realizing that he would stay on.
Moving north to San Francisco, Stein became a vital part
of the design scene in the Bay Area working with architectJohn Funk and landscape designer Garret Eckbo, eventually opening his own ofce. Living in Mill Valley, Joe Stein designeda number of houses, which became recognized as majorexamples of the ‘California School’. As a team, they had planned
and designed a large cooperative residential community at
‘Ladera’ near Palo Alto, which had idealistic social aims of simplicity surrounded by landscaped beauty in the post-Warpeace. Unsuccessful in raising nancing, he moved to Europein the early 1950s. Richard Neutra, who had been invited by the Government of West Bengal to be an adviser, proposedStein’s name as head of the newly formed Architecture and
Planning Department at the Bengal Engineering College inCalcutta. Accepting the invitation, Stein arrived in 1952, little
realizing that he would stay on.He was awarded the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian
honors, in 1992.
He has written of his initial reaction: “It was a very stimulating,extraordinarily interesting time, India was almost newly Independent. It was like coming to the United States whenThomas Jefferson was alive, something like that.Stein’s famous works include - India International Centre, IndiaHabitat Centre, Sher-I-Kashmir Conference Centre, IndianInstitute of Management; Kozhikode.
India International Centre Sher-I-Kashmir, International Conference Centre Indian Habitat CentreTriveni Kala Sangam Indian Institute of Management , Kozhikode Joseph Allen Stein walking up the stairwell of Ford Foundation, 1968.~ Photo (c) Madan Mahatta