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History of Architecture (AP313) | final essay | 2014

Discuss the impact of globalization on contemporary architecture of India

Final essay for History of Architecture (AP313)

Mishika Bablani

Roll Number: 26 Sushant School of Art and Architecture



From Indus valley Civilization to Colonial Architecture to Modernism to Hafeez Contractor

India has experienced and nurtured all forms of architecture. Maintaining the deep rooted values of tradition and culture, the most essential component of architecture- “new” has always been introduced to make effective use of the available resources and keep up with

the changing times. “Contemporary Architecture” is the term defining the construction of the

present day. It refers to the architecture being produced now. Contemporary architecture is

often confused with the term “Modern Architecture”. Modern architecture refers to the style of

architecture of mid 20s embodying the ideals of machine age: absence of ornament, steel structures, extensive use of glass and open floor plans. On the other hand contemporary architecture refers to the diverse building style of the present. It is not limited to a single style. It does not belong to a particular time frame; it is the architecture of the present day.

Globalization-opening up of the boundaries politically, economically, culturally- is taking place virtually in every field exerting all kinds of direct and indirect influence on contemporary architecture. In India globalisation came with the Liberation act of 1991. It is influencing the city physically, socially and culturally. Globalization is influencing architecture to a great extent. Post-independence there was an identity crisis in India when India wanted to establish itself as a nation in the global market. Historically, architecture has been at the core of cultural production in India and has played an essential role in defining the cultural space and physical form. The Indian architecture before globalization depicts Indian culture aesthetically as well as spatially. With the onset of globalization the cultural identity of India

History of Architecture (AP313) | final essay | 2014 Discuss the impact of globalization on contemporary

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History of Architecture (AP313) | final essay | 2014

associated with architecture is getting lost. For instance the traditional courtyard houses of India can hardly be seen now. The profession is focusing on creating globally recognised structures. As long as a plan is produced for bureaucratic formality, officials approve haphazard, large-scale schemes that have no long-term strategies or detailed analyses of their impact, it is correct in all respects. No consideration is given to the environmental consequences, local economies, or the social and cultural fabric of communities. These

desires are fanned by the bureaucrats and urban elites who opt for a “global” architectural

language without regard for local culture and politics.


As the technology advances and India is progressing, globalization is inevitable. This can be seen in everything around. It is turning everything into a commodity. Product is being given more value than the process. Globalization has also transformed architecture into a commodity. Globalisation opened the walls across the globe. With rapid urbanisation and technology the culture rooted in architecture is getting lost. India is losing its cultural identity as it is merely following the “international style”. With the opening up of the boundaries and globalisation taking its pace in India different cultures got mixed. There was a huge clash of culture resulting western lifestyle dominating the Indian lifestyle. From joint families, India is now broken to nuclear families. This change in lifestyle has affected Indian architecture to a great extent. Due to globalization the architecture of buildings has changed and the concept of connected living is completely violated. For instance the traditional courtyard houses that were built for a joint family where all the members could come together in the communal courtyard is now lost. Collectiveness of the Indian culture has been sacrificed in the wake of individual identity. The resultant architecture fails to portray the sense of harmony. It fails to create that connect between the space or the building and an individual. The space created no longer possesses the Indian contextual sense. It loses its regional identity. This architecture provides a city an image or identity that is required to elevate it in the global market but it fails to evoke emotional responses in local citizens- a sense of belonging and pride for the place can no longer be related to a building. Referencing to Aldo Rossi’s “the Architecture of the City”, the theory of “the Locus” - a relationship between a certain specific location and the buildings that are in it -is completely missing in the contemporary architectural world. Globalisation has led to various different kinds of projects developing in India which show a clear break between the context and architecture developing in that context. For instance the new gated communities that are coming in, they have no historical or spatial context, they have no relation with the context they are being created in.(Aylin,

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History of Architecture (AP313) | final essay | 2014 associated with architecture is getting lost. For

History of Architecture (AP313) | final essay | 2014

2011) the developers of such projects make these buildings into a self-sufficient unit in terms of services, recreation, infrastructure, etc. Being self-sufficient and large enough they detach themselves from the surroundings and a clear demarcation between the outside world and the inside world is developed. The new housing projects sometimes use foreign architectural styles. (milliyet 2010). The new housing projects are created to serve the purpose of identity representations by the brand they are built. They also serve as invested strategies which are vital in supporting the manifested identities (Aylin 2011).

Globalization is bringing many noticeable changes in the contemporary architecture of India which can clearly be seen in cities like Hyderabad, Delhi, Chandigarh; etc. With globalisation came new building typologies in India. New western life style was introduced hence the

“mall” culture took over the bazaar culture in cities like Delhi. Globalisation has resulted in

increased land value; setting up of new buildings as well as it has led to the increased demand of replication of the western building design standards. This has caused the Indian architecture to adapt to new changes. A very evident example of this can be seen in all the glass buildings of Gurgaon which falls under the category of the contemporary architecture of India. Over the last twenty years, globalisation has transformed Gurgaon from a village of buffaloes to a city known for its multinational glass blocks. These buildings express the havoc caused by replication of western architectural style brought in by globalisation. These styles have engulfed the Indian landscape with their high energy demands (for example to maintain cooling), utilising resources that are already scarce in India. The contemporary architecture has lost its value for space because of globalization.

These can be categorized as the “decorated sheds” (a term coined by Robert Venturi in his book “Learning from Las Vegas, 1972). The architecture has become more of a symbol and a brand than architecture of space. Present day architecture in India is all about building a commercial commodity. These glass buildings are nothing but an ideogram India is using to establish its place in the global market. Architecture has now become a materialistic showpiece that relies on technology and the capital brought in by globalization. It has now become more of a symbol than space. “Architecture is not a business, not a career, but a crusade and a consecration to a joy that justifies the existence of the earth” – Henry Cameron. This saying is now somewhat lost because of globalisation.

Contemporary architecture is not creating spaces; it is assembling masses in space. Buildings that come up in globalisation are iconic and specific to its user. For instance the Bharti Airtel office building in Gurgaon is constructed in such a manner that a different company might not be able to fit into it. The colours of the facades are done in such a manner to reflect its specific user-Airtel.

History of Architecture (AP313) | final essay | 2014 2011) the developers of such projects make

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History of Architecture (AP313) | final essay | 2014

Another impact of globalisation on contemporary architecture is the corporate branding of designs of buildings for large companies or MNCs. Globalisation has caused an inevitable need for every building to have a specific “identity” so that it is remarkably recognised in the western market. Contemporary architecture is about making the brand name behind the building recognised. It is no longer built according to the context. Buildings create a context of their own. They are not made to inspire people and the society. Every building being constructed in Gurgaon can be placed in any part of the world without it being affected itself or it affecting anything around. More emphasis is being given to create pretentious buildings that stand apart from its neighbouring building. “Good architectural practice is one that acts responsibly for its broader environment and is sensitive to the fabric and grain of a city.(Rahul Mehotra, 2004). Often variety is misinterpreted as looking different in the contemporary architecture after globalisation. Quality architecture work rich in Indian culture is getting disappeared from the Indian society which was considered an essential part of Indian Architecture. “Here we are in Robert Venturi’s [post]modern city, not just Las Vegas but any [post]modern city, a media-scape of office buildings and stores transformed by their corporate identities into the new language of consciousness: the sign moulded in glass and light, splashed over with the insignia or characters of logos. Buildings are no longer mass and weight, stone and iron, but an array of sentences spelling out the consciousness of a

city, what a city means when we enter it and use its services, consume its goods. The city’s

language of buildings and streets of glass and light, is a declaration of ideals

. . .

which the

city achieves by transforming things into words, objects into signs, the dark of nature into

neon abstraction and

codes. . .

the media-scape devours the literal materiality around it.”

(Christensen 1993, p.9-10)

Globalisation has not only affected the designing of the spaces and the lifestyle of people in India but also the materials used for construction of buildings. Mahatma Gandhi once said that an ideal living space should be constructed by using products and skills assembled within 5-mile radius of the plot. (Globalization drives in noticeable variations in Indian Architecture May 3, 2013) But in the present scenario, globalisation has opened the world boundaries which have caused different materials flowing in from all parts of the world. Now architecture is assembling multiple materials making then aesthetically appealing ignoring their properties and aftereffects and making their building stand and make a name for its creators reflecting true sense of a commodity. These will ultimately lose their value. The use of certain building materials involving global building technologies which have no Indian precedent create non-Indian, contextual foreign structures, such as curtain-glazed high rise blocks (Doshi, 1997). Contemporary architecture showcases different styles of abundance

and renders the same to its consumer.

Regional identity is symbolised by the

History of Architecture (AP313) | final essay | 2014 Another impact of globalisation on contemporary architecture

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History of Architecture (AP313) | final essay | 2014

use of traditional materials and practices, international identity is symbolised by the use of imported glass and steel (Mehrotra, 2004). Architecture is now more personalised and is not for a society as a whole. It has different meanings for different individuals. It is merely an accumulation of new technologies and products. A new architecture is emerging; large-scale and stylistic forms of building; monumental-conceptual architecture signature buildings, many of them gestural, on a vast architectural scale. (Nicholas Socrates, 2008) This form of non-contextual, contemporary architecture is not only the result of globalisation affecting the architects but also the people who ask for such buildings. The clients are also responsible for bringing in this change in present Indian architecture. Globalisation has caused a major change in the lifestyles of people. Every person wants be associated with a

certain type of class (created on the basis of one’s income). In the world of “show-offs” architecture has also suffered. Now a person doesn’t only want a house as a space to live in

but also as a commodity to show his position in the society. The meaning of the word house

is lost in terms of architectural space. It is now used as a symbol to show one’s position in

the society. Hence only the architects are not responsible for the loss of Cultural Indian Architecture, the clients are very much responsible for the same as well.

In the process of copying “international building style” to establish them in the market and create a brand name, it is apparent that people no longer are sensitive to their immediate climatic conditions. They are blinded by the western style of architecture. The “prime design elements” (Fergos 2001) that should be adopted in Indian climate like that of Gurgaon for creating a comfortable and sustainable environment are thick walls, proper ventilation, water harvesting, landscaping, orientation, overhangs, courtyards, passive systems. On the contrary the prime material which is being used in almost every other iconic building of Gurgaon following and copying the global trends is glass which traps more heat and requires artificial cooling technologies. The climatic context is completely being ignored in order to make a building that is globally recognised and can give its habitants a sense of

“international style”. With globalisation flew in the concept of “quick construction” which is

very well achieved by the materials that came in with Globalisation.

The architecture built by “the Established” and “the Popularists “is being copied without any contextual knowledge. Globalisation has taken “Branding” to a next level- branding not only in terms of products but architecture as well. The new architecture has been approvingly

dubbed “supermodern” by the Dutch critic Hans Ibelings. “For this architecture the

surroundings constitute neither legitimation nor inspiration for these are derived from what

goes on inside the building, from the programme” (Hans Ibelings, 1998) Looking at the glass

buildings of Mumbai, Moscow and Shanghai sitting in completely different parts of the world yet they are very much similar in terms of their verticality, material used and the absence of

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History of Architecture (AP313) | final essay | 2014 use of traditional materials and practices, international

History of Architecture (AP313) | final essay | 2014

contextual relation with the place they are built in. The glass block has become the Coca- Cola of architecture. (3)

On the contrary in the present day scenario, the architects are becoming aware of the hazards of merely replicating the west. Awareness is being spread across various states in India and a lot of sustainable buildings are coming up not losing sense of Indian culture but at the same time making their place in the global market competing with the western world.


  • 1. bhambhat, viren. The Architects Newspaper. [Online] 03 06, 2009. [Cited: 04 15,


  • 2. Ibelings, Hans. Nicolas Socrates. [Online] 01 06, 2010. [Cited: march 15, 2014.]


  • 3. Adams, Robert. Globalisation and Architecture. [Online] [Cited: march 16,


  • 4. Jasem. Architecture in India since 1990: a survey of the contemporary built environment in India.







  • 5. Rossi, Aldo. The Architecture of the City. s.l. : opposition books, 1966. 9780262181013.

  • 6. Adam,


The Globalisation




s.l. :





  • 7. Mehotra, Rahul. Architecture in India since 1990. s.l. : Hatje Cantz, 2011. 3775732454.

History of Architecture (AP313) | final essay | 2014 contextual relation with the place they are

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