The age of Indian architecture after Independence

Architecture Dated:  July 27, 2015
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Maulana Azad Memorial, Delhi, 1958-59, Source:

A study of major changes that took place after the independence in the field of architecture in India

India is one of the countries in the world with the richest history. One of the many things India is known for is art and architecture. The field of architecture in India has undergone significant changes since independence. In this article, we analyse the different phases of architecture in India after post-independence.

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of the independent India is widely known for his far vision, he was a modernist who favoured state intervention. Nehru was the one to take the initiative of betterment and development of art and architecture in India. He was the one behind the brilliant idea of suggesting that one percent of cost of a public building should go towards its decoration with painting, murals and sculptures. The mind behind the national art policy headed by the Lalit Kala Akademi and the National Gallery of Modern is none other than him.

A new era of architecture began when the very famous architect Le Corbusier was invited to design the capital of the Punjab state, Chandigarh. Le Corbusier’s uncompromising functionalism consciously broke with the past ‘historicism’ of imperial architecture. Other invited architect, the very notable Louis Kahn created the avant-garde architecture with the little spice of the ‘Mughal’, in Ahmedabad.  The fame of Corbusier marked the debut of many Indian architects such as B.V.Doshi. But this shear development of modernism in the country also created some anxiety in the architects as it was tough at that time to cope with the modern thought of architects and the old heritage of the nation.

As a result of the influence of modern thoughts, differences of opinion emerged among the people belonging to the architecture community. Western and colonial architectural styles were perceived as foreign and hence anti-national. Some of the tallest political leaders in the India lent their support to the revivalists, who sought to reach back a thousand years for architectural forms and details which symbolised various classical eras and golden ages of Indian culture. The modern system abhorred superfluous surface decoration and induced the use of concrete, glass and steel whereas the traditional way suggested working more on natural and vernacular materials. On the other side some technocrats argued that monuments and old buildings should be considered with the context of time and should not be simulated in the changing times. They also advocated the idea of modernisation as their point was that modern India required modern architectural symbols, forms and functions to achieve economic and social development. The tension between the modern and the prominent Indian thoughts was solved for the first time by the internationally acclaimed architect Charles Correa. Correa found the solution in the revival of earlier practices, exploring the functions of Indian buildings, rather than their decoration, in his search of authenticity. He was the one to develop the low cost housing, ‘open to sky’ spaces and innovation to cope with different sort of climates. The work of Correa inspired other budding architects to design keeping the traditional ways in mind while working with modern aspects as well. Balakrishna Doshi was cheered by the Mughal form while architect Uttam Jain forged the indigenous planning modes. Apart from the fact that the nineteenth century buildings fronted dishonour in the twentieth, some historians still perceive it as flaunting a meretricious oreintalist imagery as they were typically the more nearer to earth when it comes to the materialistic aspects.

The early post independence era saw the birth of the new association called the Society of Contemporary Artists, in which the artists like Bikash Bhattacharya , Ganesh Paine, Sunil Das, Jogen Chowdhury, Ganesh Haloi, Balraj Panesar, Tapan Talukdar and many others gathered to work for the betterment of art in India.

The association met an early fall but it got the opportunity to taste the success at international level. Many artists and architects like MF Hussain, FN Souza, Gaitonde, Kishen Khanna, Tyeb Mehta, and SH Raza were amongst the ones to achieve great fame from the association.

The foremost is the group of architects who are among the first Indians to gain architectural education in America. Habib Rehman, Achyut Kanvinde and the late Durga Bajpai. They were all young and idealistic; they shouldered the enormous responsibilities, and were vulnerable to the criticism of seniors who came from different schools of thought. The second group of architects were considered the ‘inspired by history’ people. They worked on the previously tried and tested ways to develop the era. The best examples can be seen in the Supreme Court at Delhi, designed by the architects of the Central Public Works Department, the Imperial Style of Lutyens and Baker where the designs are seen to be worth repeating a full twenty five years later. The third predominant stylistic vocabulary in this period attempted to express the spirit of free India at Chandigarh and in modifications made to the International Style in Delhi.

Climate antiphonary designs are always used all over India to cope up with the wide and diverse environment conditions. Culture based on society, nature and religion is vastly reflected in architecture of different regions. Villages were more likely to be designed with courtyards, loggias, terraces and balconies which contained the scent of ancient India happily grappling with the modern technology like electricity and water supply.

In conclusion it can be recalled that the development in the west is related with the spirits of times. India’s counter and encounter with the modernisation can be relatively new but has grown up to very high extents in the previous decades. After the independence the thing which dramatically increased on the graph on developing India was the population. The population blast was one of the major factors describing the design process in the post independence era. Small villages evolved into urban and industrial regions. The new policies and actions raised the economic bar and so fuelled globalisation and tourism. The basics and the components of these new policies insured the development of government buildings and public structures so that the nation can stand in the elite group of developing countries. And while the county continues advancing in their architectural structures, historical buildings remain well-maintained and treasured.

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