Wednesday, September 28, 2011


By Manjra Yadav, Architect

The globalization of architecture and design has brought about a insipid uniformity, even in countries that have had a plenteous architectural and cultural heritage. Typically, the traditional architecture of a country responded to its climatic conditions and cultural influences. Materials used were indigenous and easily available; and detailing took advantage of skilled local craftspeople. 

Large countries like India have fairly diverse climates and cultures across the regions, and hence have a varied architecture as well. At times even within a region, the local architecture may have absorbed different cultural influences through the centuries. Varanasi, as an example, has a very Indian architectural imagery for most of the areas adjoining the river, but the main town has a very colonial look. In Goa, influence of Portuguese has created a new 'traditional' architecture that has almost blotted out the vernacular style that existed before it. 

Unfortunately, today our towns, which originally had their own interesting identity, are now almost identical to each other. In an effort to create an interesting architecture, architects are taking up elements, often from distant lands. Therefore we have Roman, Greek, Mediterranean and Spanish facades that speak of a neo-colonialisation of India--something we fought to rid ourselves of more than 50 years ago. Contrary to popular belief, in India we do not consciously adopt a western style in order to identify with the west. We use it because we have failed to recognize our own architectural vocabulary, a style of architecture that can easily match the grandeur of the Romans, the classical symmetry of the Greeks, the stark simplicity of the Mediterranean. We seem to have forgotten our past; the architecture Rajasthan, Agra, Old Delhi, Lucknow, Varanasi, Mandu, Kerela and so on. We have a wealth of architecture in India.

There is enough richness in our traditional architecture to inspire us and, combined with today's materials and technologies, conceive a true fusion of past with present; the contemporary--supported by new technology and well engineered materials--with the charm and high craft quality of the traditional.

Before one embarks on a quest for an effective fusion of design, one must be able to recognize the essence and soul of a traditional architecture. In many parts of the world, architects are working with this fusion in order to save their heritage. We need to do this in India as well.