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MODERN ARCHITECTURE

 

After the British left India in 1947, Indian architecture dropped into an abyss. Indian architects, who were relegated to the role of being assistants to the British architects under the British Raj, took their own time to express their ingenuity. Perhaps, there was an identity crisis, a dilemma whether to bask in the glory of the past or move forward with times using new ideas, images and techniques. While in other fields like art, music and culture, the distinct Indian imprint was more enhanced in the post-Independence period; no such thing was discernible in the case of architecture. It is no doubt that the Indian architects were unable to achieve a transformative architecture despite the existence of great potential at the time of Indian Independence.

 The post-Independence period saw the emergence of two schools of thought in architecture -- the Revivalist and the Modernist. The Revivalists, who advocated "continuity with the past", could not break the shackles of the colonial legacy and left no significant impact on the neo-Indian architecture. The Modernists too depended heavily on the European and American models and tried to adopt them in India without taking into consideration the regional aspirations, diversities and requirements. The contemporary Indian architecture was also beset with problems like population explosion, lack of vision among the planners, lack of support from the government and a less than satisfactory standard of architecture education.  The result was that during the initial years after the Independence, foreign architects continued to play a leading role in Indian architecture.

 Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister, had called for an open architectural competition for the design of the Ashoka Hotel in 1956, which was won by B.E.Doctor, an architect from Bombay. Using technology to create large pillar-less spaces, Doctor created a facade that borrowed from Islamic, Hindu, British and modern architecture.

Indian architecture witnessed a revolution when the Punjab government engaged Le Corbusier to design the new city of Chandigarh. Built in three stages, Corbusier divided the city into three sections. The 'head' consisted of political, bureaucratic and judicial buildings, the administrative parts of the city. The 'body' housed the university and residential complexes in the heart of the city. The 'feet' consisted of industrial sectors and the railway station. Apart from the initial layout of the city, Corbusier also designed several buildings in Chandigarh. The High Court building has a sloping roof, supported by concrete walls which allow air to pass through them. The Assembly is a squarish structure topped with a huge industrial chimney while the Secretariat is made up of hundreds of rooms with an airy exterior.

 Taking inspiration from Le Corbusier's creativity, a young Indian architect D V Joshi designed the Institute of Indology in Ahmedabad. Charles Mark Correa, Doshi’s contemporary, designed the Hindustan Lever pavilion for the India International Trade Fair in 1961. The pavilion was an exposed concrete structure resembling a crumpled packing case made of concrete with a zigzag ramp to walk along. Correa also designed the Gandhi Sanghralaya in Ahmedabad as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.

 The Asiad Village in New Delhi, designed by Raj Rewell and built as a colossal complex with more than 800 residential units, landscaped courts, streets, restaurants and shops, all catering to sports persons who had assembled for the 1982 Asian Games, is one of the architectural landmarks of modern India. The lotus-shaped Bahai temple in New Delhi, designed by Fariburz Sabha in 1980 and completed in December 1986, is an awe-inspiring example of the ingenuity of the Indian architects.

 However, the fact remains that the contemporary architecture in India has failed to inspire. Even after 50 years of Independence our cities are still symbolised by pre-independence buildings. For instance, Calcutta is symbolised by the Victoria Memorial, New Delhi by the Rashtrapati Bhawan, Mumbai by the Victoria Terminus and the Gateway of India and Chennai by the Victoria Memorial Hall. The post-independence buildings such as the New Secretariat building in Calcutta or the Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi has nothing much to offer in terms of architectural style.

 In contrast most major cities in the world have splendid modern buildings to boast off, like Spain's ‘Casa Mila Barcelona’ (1905 to 1910 A.D.) designed by Antoni Gaudi; ‘Grand Central’, New York (1913) designed by Reed and Stern and Warren and Wetmore; The ‘Chrysler Building’, New York (1930) designed by William Van Alen; ‘The Empire State Building’, New York (1931); the ‘Sydney Opera House’, Australia (1957-1973) designed by Jorn Utzon; the ‘World Trade Centre Twin Towers’, New York (1970-1977), which were demolished by terrorists, designed by Minoru Yamasaki; ‘Bibliotheca Alexandrina’, Egypt (2002); ‘Museu Oscar Niemeyer’, Brazil (2003); ‘30 St Mary Axe’, London (2000-2004); ‘Bank of China Tower’ (1982-1990); ‘Olympic Games Tent’, Munich, Germany (1972) designed by Gunter Behnisch; ‘Museo Guggenheim’, Spain (1997) designed by Frank Gehry; ‘Petronas Towers’, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (1998) designed by Cesar Pelli; ‘Sears Towers’, Chicago (1974 to 1976) designed by Bruce Graham/ SOM; ‘C.N.Tower’, Toronto, Canada (1976) designed by John Andrews; ‘Seattle Public Library’, Seattle, USA (2004) designed by Rem Koolhaas; ‘Haj Terminal’, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (1972) designed by Skidmore Owings and Merrill (SOM); ‘Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank’, Hong Kong (1979-1986) designed by Norman Foster; ‘Emirates Office Tower’, ‘Burj al Arab’ and ‘Emirates Hotel Tower’ in Dubai; ‘Abraj Al-Bayt’ in Makkah and ‘Al Faisaliyah Centre’, Riyadh in Saudi Arabia are some of the finest modern buildings of the world.
 
 While many modern buildings of India do not come anywhere near these architectural masterpieces in different parts of the world, some of our own noteworthy buildings include ‘Kanchanjunga Apartments’, Mumbai (1970-1983) designed by Charles Correa; ‘Cybertecture Egg’ in Mumbai; ‘Suzlon One Earth’, Pune, which is touted as one of the greenest and most energy-efficient buildings ever built; ‘National Judicial Academy’, Madhya Pradesh; ‘Akruti Trade Centre’, Mumbai; ‘Infosys Progeon’ and ‘Infosys-Diamond in the Sky’, Bangalore and ‘Terminal 1D’, New Delhi Airport among others.

There is a growing brand of young and dynamic architects, which include Charles Correa, Prashant Diwakriti, Ajay Kataria, Anjum Gupta, Vineet Chadha, Nikhil Sompura and others, who do not shy away from experimentation. Most often these architects employ a hybrid style that is a free mix of Roman, English, Gothic, Rajasthani and Mughal styles. This new-age architectural aesthetics has redefined the idea of space. The emphasis now seems to be on having more open spaces, green spaces and natural lighting. It is, however, not possible to term this new trend as a 'representative' architecture of our times as it is highly restricted in geographic terms and also confined to the affluent lot.



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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