Evolution of Indian Architecture from 1970s to 2010s

Opinions Dated:  Feb. 13, 2015
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JC Hotel Kodaikanal, Design by: Ar. PRS Sivakumar

During the periods of my studies ( 1973 - 1978 ) and later for many years before globalization of businesses and before the MNC's from US, UK, etc., started flooding India with their IT Parks and their huge corporate offices, in my opinion, there were 3 kinds of architecture which prevailed in India. One was excellent architecture, the second was P.W.D. Architecture / Sarkaria Architecture and the third was “ Engineers' or Builders' “ Architecture.

The first type of architecture - good architecture which respected our climates, our culture, our social life, our heritage, etc., came from stalwart architects like Ar. Charles Correa, Ar. B.V. Doshi, Ar. Hashmuk Patel, Ar. J.R. Balla, Ar. Raj Rewal and the like in North India and Pithavadian & Partners, Narayana Rao & Associates, Govindha Rao & Associates, Zacharia & Thomas Associates, Mistry Associates, Ar. Sanjay Mohe of Mindspace Architects,  Ar. Jaisim of Fountainhead  and the like in South India. And good architecture emerged from their followers and their disciples / students.

The second type - PWD / Sarkaria Architecture emerged - I am talking about state PWDs - in a chaotic way. They did not have competent architects “ in house “ and they did not engage private architects. And the “in house” architects were dominated by the engineers and the local politicians - who tried to ape the Corbusian architecture  from Chandigarh - (they thought that was “modern”) with utter failure - and built either horrible looking distasteful buildings or buildings which were non-entities. And they produced type designs for several building types which were simply replicated every where without modifying to suit the sites and the regions - thus resulting in chaotic architecture and sometimes without fulfilling the requirements in a particular place. The external appearances were pathetic and the internal circulation of the buildings were also compromised.

But with the CPWD, the case was very different. CPWD had “in house”  architects with high qualifications with high competency in functionality and creativity. And very large institutional & corporate building projects were given to private architects through competitions and these buildings represented very good architecture.

Now the third type, the common public, who often went to civil engineers only -  instead of going to architects (out of sheer ignorance) or who engaged only senior mason contractors, came out with chaotic architecture - simply because they were trying to “ape”  the Sarkaria architecture thinking that the “Sarkaria Architecture” was good architecture because they were put up by Govts..  Sarkaria Architecture “ dominated all the cities because in those days it was the PWD which did numerous buildings, which influenced the common public.

But with the advent of MNCs influx into India
May be about 10 years back, when the MNCs flooded all over India under   “Globalisation “ with their IT Parks, Corporate Offices, manufacturing facilities, etc, etc., IMHO, the entire scenario changed. Unlike the British who colonized India, but were highly sensitive and sympathetic to local conditions, who came out with a meaningful architecture which respected the climate, which respected the local building materials available in each region, which respected the local talent available by way of skilled labour, came out with a British Colonial Architecture where it was a good and neat fusion of Indian & British Style which did not mar the Indian Architecture but merged with them with a slightly different style but yet quite graciously.

But the influx and invasion of the Foreign MNCs and corporates into India under “Globalisation“ brought us a shockingly different architecture - ONE THAT IS TOTALLY ALIEN TO INDIA.

They thrust upon us their own western architecture and “Built Forms” and with their own designing & planning giving least respect / regard to Indian climate, Indian contemporary Architecture already created by Indian stalwart architects, disregard to the materials available here and disregard to the type of skilled labour available here, they first changed the skylines of  Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore - with full glass boxes or partial glass with partial aluminum panel cladding - both alien to India - and the Indian contemporary architecture was almost lost. Most of our Indian Corporate CEOs -  having a fancy for the foreigners thinking they were superior to us - forced our Indian Architects also to adopt the same kind of Rotten Architecture which started changing the built forms of the Indian cities into an alien built environment. The full glazing not only affected the style of Architecture but also imposed heavy electrical power consumption and because of these, the common people started suffering as the governments too were lenient in giving more power supply to these MNCs ignoring the needs of the common people.

Even many “ Branded Big Architects “ too started adopting this for fear of losing clients. The dramatic change these MNCs made here was to change the Architectural Practice from “The Profession of Architecture” to the “Business of Architecture”. Many AEC firms, big and small fell prey to this - the “Profession of Architecture” was partially lost. Why I am saying “partially” is that, there are still a few architects who refuse to adopt this alien style and still do beautiful IT Parks, corporate buildings, etc. in the “Indian Context”- brick and concrete buildings with openable windows, courtyards which allow light and air inside the buildings - and where one is not forced to use air-conditioning 100 percent of the time, etc. I have seen such buildings in North India through websites and magazines and I have actually seen some IT Parks in Chennai designed by Architect Pramod Balakrishnan. A man of very high principle, he would not budge to the influences of these MNCs & corporates. And I believe there are quite a few others too who are like him elsewhere in India.
To finally summarize this, IMHO, the majority of the Corporate Indian Architecture has gone to dogs.

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