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History of Architecture (AP313) | Essay | 2013

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REGIONALISM IN INDIA & SEARCH FOR INDIAN-NESS

Essay for History of Architecture (AP131)

Mipul Kumar Singh
Roll Number: 00416901611
Sushant School of Art and Architecture

ABSTRACT
Its always been a complex question of how Indias architecture heritage can be used to
could be used to self-consciously create architecture expressions. After end of British rule
Indias been struggling for search for its architectural identity .after independence dual set of
values one focussing on future and the other events in past have shaped the works of
architects
The search for a symbolic aesthetic reflecting the aspirations of India has focussed largely
on what a building, building complex, or urban scheme is made of - its structure and
materials- and, more generally on what it looks like, its external appearance- its size,
proportional schemes, decoration and relationship to its neighbours and site.
While the focus on the issue of identity communicated through the exterior appearance of
buildings is fundamental, the internal spatial organization of neighbourhoods and buildings
and the purposes they serve are also important.
Pattern (or symbol), the thought (or the meaning specified) and the referent (idea or another
with which the symbol is associated) is often represented in a triangular form.
It is the design of the faade of the buildings that has most frequently been the focus of self-
conscious attention- the presentation of a face to the world- the external appearance. There
are more subtle variables that carry meaning. The internal spatial organization of a building,
its degree of enclosure, the proportion of enclosed space to open, the plan layout, the
sequential experience as one moves through as set of spaces and the degree of penetration
an outsider is allowed into a building are all culture bound,
The variables of the built environment that communicate meaning are vast, having many
values and interacting with each other. They can, nevertheless, be categorized into a
number of basic architectural elements-
1) The overall configuration of a precinct of a city or a building carries meaning. The
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patterns and masses that comprise an architectural style have specific associations. Thus
the organizing principles behind a specific pattern and its components are of great
architectural concern in communicating meaning.

2) The materials of which any building is constructed and the construction techniques
used carry meaning.

3) The illumination of buildings and their interiors has been a major carrier of symbolic
meaning. Usually one thinks of light in this way only in he case of ceremonial buildings such
as the Bahai House of worship designed by Fariburz Sahba. Certainly the explicitly symbolic
use of light has been associated with such places, but, except for the blind, every behaviour
setting possesses some level of light.

4) The use of colour- colour serves many mundane purposes such as reflecting light or
hiding dirt but it is also a medium of aesthetic expression.

5) The uses to which spaces have been put and ther relationship to each other have
meaning. Some uses are sacred, some are mundane.

6) The activities that take place in specific spaces- the behaviour settings that comprise
the environment- are associated with particular cultures.
Creating symbolic expression in built form
According to Lucien Steil, there are three mechanism of architectural production: imitation,
copy and pastiche. To Steil, the first is the truly creative. Imitation is the process of creating
something new- not simply offbeat- out of a thorough understanding of the principles
underlying precedents. The design objectives and the architectonic and technological
mechanisms of achieving them need to be fully dig; the affordances of specific patterns of
built form must be understood. A copy, in contrast, is a replication, or reproduction, of a
already existing, while a pastiche(paste) is a reproduction of a number of elements-
compositional or stylistic- of some precedent. A pastiche is thus a partial and imperfect
copy. It focuses on the appearance- or rather the impression of appearance- of an artefact,
be it a small object or a city. Copying might be seen to be the least productive design
mechanism but it often requires great skill, particularly in craftsmanship.
Indianization has different meanings for different people both in the sense of an idea and the
possible manifestations of that idea. One view is that the government and governmental
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agencies such as the Central and State Public Works Departments and institutions such as
professional including architectural associations, for instance, should be run by Indians and
buildings be designed by Indians. A second view is that those institutions and their modes of
operation should be based on Indian traditions. In both cases not only were instrumental
ends sought but self-esteem and a sense of identity; there was a symbolic dimension to the
development of both the architecture and the profession.
The terms modernization and westernization are often used synonymously. Westernization,
in the Indian context, usually means changes introduced by the British prior
to Independence and afterwards through the application of ideas from European and
American sources.

Modernism is simply The State of being up-to date. The use of the term here implies
changes from the past in certain structural characteristics of a society as well as the accept
ion of socio-cultural systems to change. Modernism is an attitude. It is based on the
perception that change away from the past is required in order to make the future better.
Critical regionalism
In the eighties, Alexander Tzonis, Liane Lefaivre {1981} and Kenneth Frampton {1985}
created the term critical regionalism to describe a contemporary architecture which could
neither be branded as internationalism nor as a folkloric or historical concept of region and
architecture. The architecture of critical regionalism makes reference to the site. Rather than
dealing extensively with the region itself and a particular regional style, Framptons concept
of regionalism mainly focuses on the bonding of a building to its site and location in a
sociological context. Tzonis and Lefaivre {1981} chose the term critical regionalism in
reference to the Frankfurter Schules {Adorno, Horkheimer} critical theory. This theory
claimed a delusion of the objective illusion as the only way to obtain a critical and
independent position within rapidly developing capitalist, Western societies. It was seen as a
way of becoming independent from the capitalist {neo-liberal} mechanisms of media and
economy, which tends to dominate the world in a process of globalization. According to
Tzonis and Lefaivre, architecture should also refer to the notion of self-reflection. It should be
independent of an emotional {therefore easy to manipulate} view of a countrys way of
looking at region, tradition and history. Furthermore, Framptons critical attempt was to
work against an ever-increasing industrialized and standardized world-wide use of building
materials and construction methods which neglects and destroys local building traditions and
their transgression into contemporary architecture. In the 1990s, the concept of Critical
Regionalism has become the key theme of an intense and lasting debate on local, modern
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architecture {see, among others, Axthelm 1990 and Achleitner 1997}. In the process of the
reflection on the own and the foreign in contemporary architecture, the term critical
regionalism was also used as a theoretical basis to describe modern architecture in
developing countries. It was taken up in many countries of the South to re-examine their
traditions in search of their "own" traditional values, principles and national identity. This
process has had an impact on contemporary architecture and has eventually triggered an
intense discussion on how local "own-ness" should be created without simply copying
fragments from the past.
Critical regionalism in the Indian context


In the early fifties policies of a progressive and forward-looking approach to everything
gave the Indian architects an opportunity to design and build.

The late sixties, however, saw the emergence of a question of identity. Questions like how
well did the forms conceived marry Indian actually. Their meaning and social relevance
came under scrutiny and questions arose as to whether the forms proposed were actually
devoid of sensitivity to Indian ethos and rootedness of regional styles, materials and
climate. This quest brought about the development of a conscious effort to bridge the gap
between the two variant schools of thought.

The seemingly divergent forces of traditional architecture and contemporary building
methods and materials created a conflict, which became complicated.

As the early seventies approached, this tension, struggle and questioning got weaker. In
the eighties and nineties it totally lost its body and meaning and got replaced by a very
dangerous complacency. There was a certain loss of collective thought a holistic
approach that is totally lacking today. In around the 1970s, architects in India turned
towards Indias traditional architecture for inspiration this going back to roots marked the
beginning of a new chapter in the evolution of present Indian architecture.
When, we talk of this phase of evolution of the Indian architecture, we know that there was
a strong desire with architects to create an Indian-ness, which has always been marked
by no particular symbol or statement or figure but the concept of diversity itself.

Also the diversity in India is not just confined to linguistics or the culture of it but the
diversification also extends to its climate, geography and other conditions which mark the
locale and hence the site conditions.

Even, with this same feeling of reproduction of Indias past, the modes of interpretation
occurred in more than one ways, which were:
1. Literal Interpretation- which looked upon the past design details and copied them in
the present day construction of buildings like Birla Mandir, New Delhi. Also the
Akshardham temple complex is an example of this literal reinterpretation, probably
because without taking into account the varied climates off Gujarat and a place like
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Delhi, it has been created exactly in the same trend.

2. Abstract Interpretation- which also looked upon the past design elements but
reproduced them in a slightly twisted manner, like the ISKON temple, Delhi done by
Ar.A.P. Kanvinde. Also the Chittranjan kali Bari, Delhi, which is a reinterpretation of
the Calcutta barrel vault culture produced though not in thatch or brick but RCC.
Regionalism and its Critical Side
Regionalism is the past and here in the twentieth century, has sometimes been associated
with reactionary phenomena, not only from one measure but every approach that is of
importance today be it economic or political.

Prefixing this term of regionalism with, critical probably implies that there is some kind of
a difference between the kind of architecture being born out of inspiration from the past
and the architecture continuing from its root ,the vernacular. Though places where the
vernacular is still existent the architect or the architectural group is nothing but merely a
way of helping them extend their own roots further and better to strengthen their hold and
make stay another bead in the glorifying necklace of Indias characterizing feature of
multiplicity.
How the architects approach the issue of identity-

CHARLES CORREA-"Our identity we are searching for is going to be pluralistic. It is
not a monocentric one. India is a pluralistic society. It has many layers of orders. Firstly
overviews are very important in looking for identity. Secondly identity is not a single pattern.
It is not a single pattern. Identity is dynamic and continually changing. Identity is a process. It
is not an end in itself but a by-product.
If identity is pluralistic and dynamic does that mean that anything goes? That anyone can
come in and build anytime, anywhere?
We might not know what something is but we surely know what it is not.
Architect should have the right instincts so that he can tell the difference between something
authentic and something superficially picked up.
There are three streams that create built form.
The first is what is being constructed in the rural areas. It is indigenous. And the second is
new popular.
The third is the architect. We are the purveyors of myths and of ideologies -very often with
the wrong ideologies. In order to change this there are two ways we can proceed. One is to
go back to the indigenous and other to try to invent the future. New attitudes of life styles
should not decide this approach.

RAJ REWAL-"I dont believe in blindly copying our past. We have to learn from the
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precedents to solve our existing problems. I feel we have to re-invent modernity in terms of
our own traditions and cultural heritage. It is an important task to search for a modern
architectural language, which responds to our requirements, lifestyle, climate and building
materials. Market economy and the consumerist culture are facts of life and architectural
language is based on it.

Traditional architecture was based on a vocabulary of design which may not be relevant
today even in Kashmir or Rajasthan. We are building with concrete with concrete frame
structures, infill walls and now also beginning to build partially industrial structures. The base
of contemporary architecture has to be new techniques of building and a sensible use of
modern and traditional materials.

ROMI KHOSLAThe search for identity in our architecture lies in creating buildings of
the horizontal (contemporary plane) which will recognize and develop out of the historical
(vertical plane) and not purely out of modernism." I dont believe that architecture is intended
to respond to technical and economic scenarios. Architecture evolves over time. The Indian
sub-continent has a craft-based building industry that is beginning to get industrialized at the
periphery. So, buildings are still hand-made and have industrialized components attached to
them- that is the architecture of today. Tomorrow it may be different. Architectural patronage
has always come from the well-to-do middle class with a disposal income with which it wants
to project its image.

Money multiplying factories and real estate flatted buildings seldom are at the cutting edge of
architectural ideas in the metropolitan cities of Mumbai and Delhi. The demonstration of
architectural bravado is more often that not confined to farmhouses, hotels and private
farmhouses as well as institutional buildings whose mangers wish to project a progressive
image of their institution. There is a wide range of work going on inIndia and each architect is
busy doing a wide range of work within his office.

The Indian architect is heroic, he will accept my challenge and is far bolder and more
courageous that his western counterpart. He is trying to fight practice against enormous
odds. Firstly, he has no professional support. For all intents our professional such as the
Institute and the Council are still suffering from birth pangs that have rendered them
professionally sterile. Secondly, he is unable to find enough space to work in because as we
all know, the real estates of Mumbai, Delhi, and other states are on the par.

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Thirdly, he is powerless to influence the fate of his cities, which have been donated to the
builder who is essentially corrupt. In this architecturally hostile environment you do need to
be heroic to try and build good buildings.

Contemporary architecture is saddled with the same problems and beset contemporary
life. India has a vast architectural heritage and the phrase Indian architecture is as
meaningful or meaningless as the term Indian mind. In trying to define what is Indian, there
would be tendency to identify it as Hindu Indian.. We will then certainly have to accept that
the Taj Mahal is an imported structure. The truth is that India is like a funnel into which
everything keeps getting poured.

AGK MENON
"It is one of the paradoxes of globalization that even as it imposes transnational values and
process in local cultures; it simultaneously gives them a presence they never had before.
The more globalization disrupts, displaces and overlays local traditions, the more one is
made aware of the significance of what is lost in the process.

The interdisciplinary and intercultural scholarship encouraged by globalization brings to light
the value of historically evolved architecture of a region and the indigenous knowledge
systems and practices, which produced it.

With the attainment of Independence, the idea of a unified and homogenous Nation
became an ineluctable reality, and manifested itself in many forms of artistic expression, not
least in the field of architecture. The imperative to modernize, the urgency top catch-up of
course reinforced this idea.
For a newly independent country like ours it would as some see it, be backward to cling to
the past and not accept the newer giving of the technology, welcomed universally.
Therefore in order to project an image of ourselves as that of a continually progressing
country we must take an active participation in the technological vogue creating ripples on
the surface of the earth. It is of this reason that, even in a land of traditional cultures we
have architects making buildings, which are nothing less than a virtual city or dream far kept
from reality, for instance buildings like the Vastu in Mumbai by Hafez contractor which is
spelling whim, these days
CONCLUSION
In our country design is very subjective and the evolution of design, good design or bad
design is extremely complex; because of language, regional styles and literacy levels. We
have high-level literacy and we have low-level literacy. So its very difficult to take only one
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stance. Its more contextual and its more subjective and varies from person to person and
also dependent on personal philosophy. But within that one can build certain kinds of
category and norms. This is required and can bring about some kind of goal or conduct or
directions. Very few of us have tired it. All of us are struggling to build our thing; were
fighting for our own identity unfortunately. Theres no collective identity with NID, IDC or
Architects. Architects have established themselves to some extent. But graphic design still
needs more colleges and institutions and probably this is the prime need of our country. And
for me Indian doesnt mean those Ajanta, Ellora and iconography. Indian needs means,
working for India, for Indian needs, for Indian technology or computerized Indian today.
English is an Indian language today. Dont shy away from using English language, by not
using vernacular languages. If you have vernacular problems, then use vernacular language.
That becomes sophisticated and that is the basic thing what were going through. Bringing
order, because theres lot of disorder I see at this point. And before we bring order; theres
this globalization and deconstruction; information is coming in bulk to us. Everyday new
information, new trends, new styles, new influences; we know about it in hardly twelve hours
and that makes India highly vulnerable. Because before we know what we can do with order,
suddenly it is XXXXX. Before we break the order, theres globalization. Before we even build
our own identity, theres global identity. Even we have not build any national identity, forget
about regional identity. Now theres an advantage to have, chunk two centuries growth and
cope with it, but now ignoring it. Understand first, what regionalism & nationalism is and then
go for globalization. Do not go for globalization just for the sake of it; this is what I personally
think.

Reference

1. Corbusier, Le. Towards a New Architecture. reprint. s.l. : CreateSpace Independent
Publishing Platform, 2011. ISBN: 1466216395, 9781466216396.
2. das, s.k. City, Multiplicity, and Specificity. [Online] [Cited: 3 17, 2014.]
http://www.nbmcw.com/articles/green-construction/15836-development-of-modern-indian-
architecture.html.
3. ozkan, Suha. "Introduction - Regionalism within Modernism.". 1985.
4. Peter Herrle, Stephanus Schmitz. Constructing Identity in Contemporary Architecture:
Case Studies from the South. LIT Verlag Mnster, 2009 : s.n., 2009.
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5. http://delhi-architecture.weebly.com. [Online] [Cited: 4 17, 2014.] http://delhi-
architecture.weebly.com/architecture-and-identity.html.
6. oliver, paul. shelter sign and symbol. s.l. : overlook press, 1977. ISBN 13: 978-0-87951-
068-8.
7. Jon Lang, Madhavi Desai, Miki Desai. 1997. Architecture and Independence. s.l.:
Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195639006
8. Jon Lang. 2002. A Concise History of Modern Architecture in India. s.l.: Permanent Black
Publishers. ISBN 8178240173.