After the British left India in 1947, Indian architecture dropped into an abyss.
Indian architects, who were relegated to the role of being assistants to the British architects under the British Raj, took their own time to express their ingenuity. Perhaps, there was an identity crisis, a dilemma whether to bask in the glory of the past or move forward with times using new ideas, images and techniques. While in other fields like art, music and culture, the distinct Indian imprint was more enhanced in the post-Independence period; no such thing was discernible in the case of architecture. It is no doubt that the Indian architects were unable to achieve a transformative architecture despite the existence of great potential at the time of Indian Independence. The post-Independence period saw the emergence of three schools of thought in architecture – the Revivalist on a smaller scale, the constructivist Russia and the Modernist on a larger scale. The Revivalists, who advocated "continuity with the past", could not break the shackles of the colonial legacy and left no significant impact on the neo-Indian architecture. The Modernists too depended heavily on the European and American models and tried to adopt them in India without taking into consideration the regional aspirations, diversities and requirements. The contemporary Indian architecture was also beset with problems like population explosion, lack of vision among the planners, lack of support from the government and a less than satisfactory standard of architecture education. The result was that during the initial years after the Independence, foreign architects continued to play a leading role in Indian architecture. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister, had called for an open architectural competition for the design of the Ashoka Hotel in 1956, which was won by B.E.Doctor, an architect from Bombay. Using technology to create large pillar-less spaces, Doctor created a facade that borrowed from Islamic, Hindu, British and modern architecture. Indian architecture witnessed a revolution when the Punjab government engaged Le Corbusier to design the new city of Chandigarh. Built in three stages, Corbusier divided the city into three sections. The 'head' consisted of political, bureaucratic and judicial buildings, the administrative parts of the city. The 'body' housed the university and residential complexes in the heart of the city. The 'feet' consisted of industrial sectors and the railway station. Apart from the initial layout of the city, Corbusier also designed several buildings in Chandigarh. The High Court building has a sloping roof, supported by concrete walls which allow air to pass through them. The Assembly is a squarish structure topped with a huge industrial chimney while the Secretariat is made up of hundreds of rooms with an airy exterior. Taking inspiration from Le Corbusier's creativity, a young Indian architect D V Joshi designed the Institute of Indology in Ahmedabad. Charles Mark Correa, Doshi’s contemporary, designed the Hindustan Lever pavilion for the India International Trade Fair in 1961. The pavilion was an exposed concrete structure resembling a crumpled packing case made of concrete with a zigzag ramp to walk along. Correa also designed the Gandhi Sanghralaya in Ahmedabad as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. The Asiad Village in New Delhi, designed by Raj Rewell and built as a colossal complex with more than 800 residential units, landscaped courts, streets, restaurants and shops, all catering to sports persons who had assembled for the 1982 Asian Games, is one of the architectural landmarks of modern India. The
who do not shy away from experimentation. Anjum Gupta. The Judicial Academy in Bhopal. green spaces and natural lighting. Rajasthani and Mughal styles. In contrast most major cities in the world have splendid modern buildings to boast off. Vineet Chadha. It is. designed by Fariburz Sabha in 1980 and completed in December 1986. The emphasis now seems to be on having more open spaces. The New Assembly building in Bhopal and the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board office in Jabalpur. New Delhi by the Rashtrapati Bhawan. however. Shangai has the TV Tower. Baroda and Bhopal. This new-age architectural aesthetics has redefined the idea of space. Once completed it will be more than 213 metres (700 feet) taller than the Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur and will achieve the distinction of being the world's tallest building. not possible to term this new trend as a 'representative' architecture of our times as it is highly restricted in geographic terms and also confined to the affluent lot. Prashant Diwakriti. Gothic. The building.Tower. The post-independence buildings such as the New Secretariat building in Calcutta or the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi has nothing much to offer in terms of architectural style. English. would be 677 metres (2222 feet) high and 339 metres (1111 feet) wide at the square base. Chicago has the Sears Tower and Toronto has the C. The proposed centre for Vedic consciousness. Rajkot. the fact remains that the contemporary architecture in India has failed to inspire. like Sydney has its Sydney Opera House. Raipur. the world's tallest building would be laid at Karondi village. Indeed.
. which is modelled on Sao Paulo Tower of Brazil. Most often these architects employ a hybrid style that is a free mix of Roman. Hyderabad or Lucknow. New York has its World Trade Centre. There is a growing brand of young and dynamic architects. Even after 50 years of Independence our cities are still symbolised by pre-independence buildings. Hong Kong has its Hongkong and Shanghai Corporation building and the Bank of China Building and even Colombo has its new Parliament building. which will be built by the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Vedic University. like Kuala Lumpur has its Petronas Tower. In November 1998. which include Charles Correa. is an awe-inspiring example of the ingenuity of the Indian architects. Paris has new Grand Arch and the Georges Pompidos Centre. it is the smaller cities and towns like Indore. with no greatly visible architectural traditions like that of Jaipur. However. India will have something to cheer about if this building materializes! Madhya Pradesh seems to be the only state in India which has several grand public buildings and international award winning projects. the Rajiv Gandhi Jal Grahan Mission in Raipur and the proposed "White House" in Bhopal are some fascinating examples which show that global aesthetics is moving very fast into the smaller Indian cities. the media reported that the foundation stone of World Centre of Vedic Learning. Ajay Kataria. Calcutta is symbolised by the Victoria Memorial. Paradoxically.N. Nikhil Sompura and others. Mumbai by the Victoria Terminus and the Gateway of India and Chennai by the Victoria Memorial Hall. is being designed according to the Maharishi Sthapatya Veda symbolising the victory of India's ancient knowledge of Vastu Vidya.lotus-shaped Bahai temple in New Delhi. Even cities in other Third World countries have several buildings to feel proud about. For instance. It was also reported that a consortium of architects and engineers who have designed several of the tallest structures in the world is undertaking the design of the building. that are displaying unprecedented alacrity in adapting to 'international styles'. in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh.
s which led w the birth of modern design must be dearly understood and distinguished from those responsible for India’s traditional design thinking. High technology and high volumes in production. These disciplines received a fillip in India because of a conscious decision by the country’s post -independence rulers to launch a concerted drive to attain economic and industrial selfsufficiency On the industrial front there was. It eventually took the form of a comprehensively written proposal by Charles Eamcs and Ray Eames. which. the India Report._had been_lying dormant and were waiting to be discovered. But these plants eventually became the domain of a different level of pro. which in the early l960s ushered in what could rightly be called India’s second industrial revolution. If such cultural identity. According to them. were educated in modem design and yet were primarily concerned with the design idioms of traditional India. Two of the internationally recognized disciplines of modem design in the second half of the twentieth century are industrial design and graphic design. Several schools for industrial design were a post-war development. in fact.iding fathers of the proposed institute of design already hcld a view that the historical imperar ivc. by the middle of the 1950s. though in a minority. were bridged by “small-scale” production. a dear vision of the process of industrialization on a national scale. which evolved over centuries as a result of soclo-cukural_processes. AN INSTITUTE OF DESIGN It was then that the idea of starring an institute of design was mooted by the ministry of commerce and industry of the government of india. hence the winds of change sweeping over the Indian design scene remained confined only to the field of architecture.applied arts. Such juxtaposition of sicws might seem to lead to a dichotomy. the later. then the second and more urgent area of need was the economic and industrial development of the nation. duction — the small-scale sector. tntIias first industrial revolution in the early 1950s resulted in the creation of a vast industrial inlras tructure and inculcated a tcchnological” attitude in the post-iiidcpcndcncc generation. By the late 1950s the country had a number of plants manufacwring capital goods” and machinery. is also known as visual communications design. Only then would a parity be clearly perceived and the design wisdom of an ancient culture and society be fruitfully assimilated into the education and prokision of the modern Indian designers. nor was there an indigenous design profession as such. some of which began to produce consumer products. because of its fairly recent preoccupation with the design of modern communication and media-oriented activities. was horn of the International Design movement. on the other. but the authors of the India Report and thc Iou. on the one hand.
. was one art-a of need. Except for architecture. But there were people who. They were seen as poised to influence and change the complexion oi the design process. there were no seats of design learning in pie-independence India. these idioms. American husband and wife architect and designer ream. and handwork and craft production. discussed at length in the india Report.
one of the most erudite design thinkers and a world. the basic shelter. in turn.iI man’s design ability.Reinforcing this argument was Eames’ poetic analysis of the design process of a Iota. An act of design. and tools. accumulated many layers of meaning and usages which. which may be an object or an object system. which. who should draw — albeit by implication — the fine distinction between the two kinds of design processes. This instinct has been present in all human cultures. It is appropria te that it was none other than Charles Eimcs. in fact. In retrospect the I 960s were an interesting decade when design seemed to preoccupy many peoples minds. and symbols. These first acts of design laid the foundation for today’s man-made environment and were possible because of man’s dcsignabiliry’ and his understanding of nature in its two most important aspects: nature’s laws and nature’s materials. One design process is “evolved” and is responsible for the traditional design solutions and the other is to he “learnt by the coming generation of Indian designers. signs. means of transportation and production. and the basic communication system. starts with the planning of a tangible solution that results in a device”. in modern times. conjure up confusing images and interpretations. the ubiquitous Indian pot form. All dcsigrt is planning — at least it begins with planning — but all planning is not design. established in 1968 as a posgraditare department of the Indian Institute of Technology at Mumbai. this Capacity can be called prirnacv. a built space.renowned industrial and communication designer. epicomircd the underlying philosophy of the India Report. as a rule. and is particularly evident in the design of functional objects. scripts. This ability manifested itself in the crearion of three basic devices to mccl the most basic human needs: the basic tool. However. the basic concept of design is easy to comprehend if it is related to the human instinct of survival through innovation. or a communications sysrcm. past and present. THE CORE OF DESIGN: PLANNING A DEVICE An important constituent of the design process directly relates to the twin abilities of human beings to foresee a future need and plan to fulfil it. THE EVOLVED DESIGN PROCESS Designability is the result of a continuous historical process of solving problems related to special kinds of human needs. Within a short period of six years. As part of the irss of innovation. The universal familiarity with the design process provides a simple and direct way to characterize the nature of design. two design instisutions of nnional import ance began functioning in India — the National Institute of Design (NID). established in 1962 at Ahnicdabad. Design can be understood historically with re&rence to the evolved ability of primaeval man to plan and create a device to meet a ftresecn need. A distinct need was felt by the government to train special experts kr solving the design problems of newly established industries. and the Industrial Design Centre (IDC). shelters. Gujarat. There arc at least six conditions under which such a process could function:
The concept of “design” has.
There are at leasa three more reasons that give the evoked design process its “unstructured” image. When a problem demands a device. or a communication svstent that characterized the contemporary human cnviron mcnt. lithe solution requires the nuking ola device. the primordial human instinct would by w turn to nature because nature maintains a vast and barely concealed inventory of possible solutions to almost all problems of design. to petroleum. to steam. This makes it simply impossible to learn it in a structured educational environment. and should. Often. However. the adoption of a ncw technology (from stone to metals. if not decades). By its very nature this process is protractcd ovrr a considerable length of time. unlike the evolved design process that may straddle many generations. this design process is not perceived in separate. owing to the time frame involved (years. a built space. oii the other hand. well-defined stages. and composites). and most important. to clectricuy). The beginnings of the learnt design process ean be traced to the period after the Industrial Revolution. no doubt because of a near total acceptance of the machine as the major method 0f production. until it fulfils the original need. socio-cultural. it naturally challenges the human faculty to plan and innovate. only then does it become a problem of design. it is the evolved design process that has been speaking” to us all these years through the best of the craftsmen’s solutions in all parts of the world. plastics. or change to a new energy source (from being driven by man to animals. perhaps in the early decades of the nineteenth century.angc m the physiognomy” ola device was the result of either an added or extended need (the physical nccd extended to the psychological. One sees it at work even today in the craftproducing centres of India and other South Asian countries.When a clearly foreseen human need is not fulfilled of its own accord. It is also an organic process. it is the result of the collective contribution of many anonymous designers over several gcncrations. The word ‘dcsign was yet to be used in relation
. THE LEARNT DESIGN PROCESS The new process consciously employed by the modern designers may he tcrnied the learnt design process because it is self-consciously acquired by an individual designer within a well-defined time frame. and retested. The instinct to innovate would invariably make man go beyond nature’s “readymade” solution (which would. whenever employed. As an outcome of the interaction between these two resources a device would eventually emerge. or even spiritual realm). the problem as it emerges is a result of the need to satisFj human requirements. The device would be tested. it is bound within a lime frame. Undoubtcdl>. it has to be deliberate and methodical and. remain a source of inspiration) and seek a solution by exploring two major resources available in naurc: the intangible resource of natural laws and the tangible resource of natural materials. Last. modified. hardly ever employed selI-conccously. at any given point in human history. a direct outcome of the Industrial kcvolution. it seemed to have stopped functioning by the ntiddlc of the nineteenth century. Therefore. if we were to examine either
an object. In the European countries. The rsawrc oldie learnt design pwccss is such that. Li is not difficult to deduce that each significant ch. it would certainly tell us a similar sagc-by-stage “design story”.
Design was imagined as an isolated activity vaguely connected with art. weavers. a problem.000 years and had a single word to express it: kala. What we celebrate as Indian art today was. art and craft remained inseparable. in the guise of the Irnertiational Design movement. or the creation of a visual pattern. ro be more accurate. graphic icons. The simple reason is that for more than three millennia. they seemed to need a “planning tool” or “str. equated with the creation of inuges related to the divinities oldie Indian pantheon and inspired by the observable natural and universal phenomena. no separate terms were needed to distinguish the plastic arts from the crafts. even a cursory examination of traditional environments would reveal that they arc replete with objects and system. This unifcd concept remained unchanged for more than 2. It was also around this time that architects and engineers began to work as “prokssionals. but also in constructed environments. in its profoundest sense. One senses that a spirit ol authitya (total appropriateness” in Sanskric). the phrase denoting the activity of designing for industrial prod uctioii that fIrst gained acceptance in Great Britain was “industrial art”. having been blessed by the gods. DESIGN AND CRAFT Until the early eighteenth century the present-day concept of Indian an or even Indian craft did not form a part of the conscious thinking and living experience of the people. art and craft have traditionally been regarded very differently than they are in thc modern world. skills.solving process. If’ one accepts the premise that an unbroken tradition oicraft production in an ancient culture carries a dynamic design process. palilters. In Indian history. To appreciate the advent of modern design in India in its proper perspective. clay. and ritual objects. literal or symbolic. they inevitably possessed the requisite visual elegance. which were of a specialized nature. l’hcsc images and formal spaces were created priniarily to please the senses and sensibilities of the gods who. In the minds of the creators and the people for whom these objects were created. which is quali fied as
.s created w fulfil specific human needs. Those who created them were endowed with a certain slate of grace. Naturally. stone. The need may be physical or psychological. a word not easy tu translate or define because its meaning embraces all aspects of the arts. in the modern sense ci the word. and rneralsniiths also creased artefacts of everyday usc for the householders. it was then that the core idea of planning began to make even better sense. nor incidentally. Hence.ucgy” that could be mastered with the professional’s own efforts.with industrial production. sculptures. Modern design. Significantly. On this premise rest most of tue dassical aesthetic canons of India. and wood workers. These images resulted not only in idols. and basic sciences and technologies. it is important to outline ihc historical and socio-economic 1ictors behind it. In order to solve their problems.itihtiics as those of sensitive humans. in India’s distant past. the concept of art had remained completely indistinguishable from that of craft. crafts. they arc also equivalern to modern-day craftsmen. As the images and rtlatcd environments were created in accordance with these canons. were invested with precisely the same . This seems to be one of the major factors to have transformed the concept o design to undergo a transformation in the early part of the twentieth ccntur The old image of”design as an isolated activity gradually acquired connotations of a process. Therefore. and both from what is known today as design. permeates the environment. ilitigrators. Today. As the nearest equivalent to artists — in the Western sense oi the term — masons. was popularired in india soon after independence.
THE CONCEPT OF MECHANIZATION The enterprise of colonizing the Indian suixontinent came to cmbody by the middle of the nineteenth cent ury the metaphor of a giant conduit whose one end shipped out raw materials from India while the other shippcd in various influences from contemporary Britain and Europe.-Britkh. then India’s craftsmen since time immemorial have produced some remarkable design solutions. However. and scmie very basic plastics which in turn posed a strong counterpoint to the hand-wrought copper. Samacbar L)arpan.atiaii. these incoming inilue nees already included sonse typically British ilistirutions that were eventually transplanted on Indian soil. the style may be labelled lndo. Also included were a bust oi social habits. 1-lalhd cast the first-ever metal type in Bengali. structural glass. and hand-carved stone and wood structures. in
. ol which the two most notable were indian teuilcs and architectural style. was published in Calcutta. Most notable . A few iniluenccs travelled from india to Britain. ‘[his was not entirely a one-way traffic. His A Grammar of the Bengal Language (1778) was one of die earliest printed books in India. Also. has survived oloflizatiofl. and the Nash Pavilion at Brighton that recalls the 1ij Mahal. By the time India was plated under the direct rule of the British crown in 1858. unlike its European coutiterp’art. did not travel outside these cities for a long time. while the first Indian language newspaper. including the after-effects of the Industrial Revolution. and iron objects and took. The new industrial environment in the few urban centres that emerged on both sides of the peninsular coast was not India’s own brand of the Industrial Revolution. The first newspaper. objects. to a certain extent. Modern mechanical mrans of communication came long before the locomotive and the spinning jenny. Also. These materials included sreel. the first machine to be installed for production was the ginning miLl. So naturally the first to arrive on the scene was a last and entirely mechanized form of transportation. in 1780. however. Crautsnwii in India still produce the same time-tested designs that cater to the needs of the Indian people. Much of this technological change was powered by the arrival of dectricit which was list replacing steam energy. Two examples that reflect this coniluenee of cultures arc the . and education. In 1776 Nathaitid B. as well as India’s giant strides towards pust—indepcndencc industx-ialii. the railway For the same reason. the Kashmir ihawl. a prevalent term during the Raj was Anglo—Indian. More interesting was the development of design idioms which resulted from the niecring of the two cultures on Indian soil. These were eveni ttally followed by machines for spinning and weaving (hat rivalled and. reinforced concrete. the original reason for the birth and growth of these cities was to act as ‘loading stations” for raw material arriving from the hInterland. the socio-economic changes in people’s lives. damaged the handloom and other craft production systems of the Indian subcontinent. jurisprudence. the craft tradition in India. The oft-cited examples arc those of Dhaka muslin.unong these were new methods of goscrnancc. the result of mechanical methods of production.the evolved design process. and architectural idioms that were gradually adopted by the people of India. During ihi.s tinw niodcrn materials with concomitant production and engineering skills were being introduced and were readily adopted by a new breed of local manufacturers.iifln box arid the deep verandas of a dak bungalow. The period of nearly ninety years (1858-1947) that followed the imposition of imperial rule was marked by a process of gradual and limited urbanization. Hickys Bengal Gazeite. or at least the pp1 of rural India. brass.
by and large. Among many important historical developments nitliat perio d was the ftunding of the Bauhaus (1919-1933). soon to be followed by a Gujarad newspaper. the Shantinikctan influence had already spread outside Bengal. MumbaiSamachar. to a certain extent. Originally. the school fiunded by Debcndran.
. the Bauhatis had to stage a deliberate revolt against the age-old system of educating designers. Ii: is no coincidence that Shantiniketan. The first of these was established in Calcutta and was named the School of Industrial Art. and design also madc inroads into the cultural processes of the subcontinent. architecture. The initial work of some members of the Bengal school. Before the decade ended. THE MODERN MOVEMENT AND THE BAUHAUS The beginning of the twentieth ceittury saw the Modem Movement influencing the work of most archit ects and designers in Europe and America. which were radically different from those of past ccnturics. For reasons of administrative efficiency the British introduced new methods and inventions from the industrialized West in India. and crafts and was renamed the Government College of Arts and Crafts. one indirect. consisted of paintings and graphic arts. the Bauhaus sought to end the schism between the two. the other direct. there were two other schools. which. The educational philosophy of the Hauhaus by in a total Commitment by its maclers and teachers to create a new generation of designers for the design needs of the twentieth century. but many other artists consciou. Jr arrived in the guise of the schools of Arts and Crafts. Evidently the exhibition was mounted following a suggestion From the poet Rahindranatli Tagore. directly modelled on the eponym ous instirudons in contemporary Britain. naturally revealed an assimilation of modernist influences. architects. Similarly the Modern Movement with its philosophy of machine aesthetics and the restless experimentation in art. In this connection. it was meant to teach Indian students the elements of drawing to assist the experts working with the Archaeological Survey of India. inducing similar activities in several other parts of India. The system k opposed wa. In 1864 it expanded its areas of learni ng to include painting. and since 1648 it had been followed with almost no change by schools all over the world.s laid down by the French Eci des Beaux-Arts.ath Tagore and later expanded by Rahindranath Tagore into a university. The first and indir ect channel eventually resulted in the formation of a group of creative people in Bengal whose work came to be labdled the “Bengal SchooF. and artists. came out in 1818. By teaching stud ents art and in technically expert craftsmanship. To achieve this goal.Bengali.1y borrowed from the indigenous sources and strove to strikc a counterpoint. Founded by the architect Walter Gropius. the curricula and the teaching methods at these schools were to follow those of their parcnt” institutions in Britain. became known as an exciting place for experimentation not only in the plastic arts bus also in graphic arts. in 1822. the pionccringsdiool of modem design. By the end of the 1930s. one in Bombay (now Mumbai) and one in Madras (flow Chennai). thc school taught various crafts which he linked to architecture. crafts. it is interesting to learn tha in 1922 an exhibition of the works of the Bauhaus masters and students during the Weimar period in Germany was held at the Calcutta headquarters of the Indian Society of Oriental Art. sculpture. and. which was introduced for the fIrst time in 1835. For nearly one hundred years. architecture. This influence travelled by two channels. The Beaux-Arts “tradition” also travelled w India in the middle of the nineteenth century as an offs hoot of the newly planned educational system authored by lord Macaulay.
udwig Mies van der Rohc [1886-19691. In the words of the architectural critic Reyner Banham.s taught either in schcls of architecture or the
. Swiss architect and city planner (the orhr two being Walter Gropius [1883. [c Corbusici’s work epitom ized the spirit of the Modern Movement. in particular. the new capital of the States o Pun jab and Hatyana. German architect and educator. During the four crucial decades between the 1920s and the 1960s. sona of one of its three apostles.trchiccrs. In 1952 he was commissioned by the Indian govcrnmcnt to design and build Chandigarh. Lc Corbusier (18W’-1965). and the International Style. German-born American architect). he was “the most imitable of architects of the mid-twentieth century decades” and he remained more so with most students of architecture in India. DESIGN AND ARCHITECTURE: THE SEPARATE PATHS Le Corbusier’s design philosophy and his vast body of work cast deeply influenced the posr-Cliandigarh generation of Indian . [Ic occasionally designed fisrnicurc for his buildings and meticulously selected objects for their approximation to geometrical solids.The second and more direct channel by which modern design travelled to india was in rhc very per.1969]. and I. In fact industrial design till the end of the 1940s wa. there were numerous internariona lly renowned industrial designers praclising in Europe and the USA who had their inirial (raining as archit ects. founder of the Bauhaus school. in general.