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India, Part I: Architecture of Independence

November 20, 2012
Architecture school

Architecture School by Le Corbusier, Chandigarh, India, Photo courtesy of Arnout Fonck

Architecture school

Architecture School by Le Corbusier, Chandigarh, India, Photo courtesy of Arnout Fonck

Place of assembly Chandigarh 2007, Photo used under Creative Commons

Chandigarh High Court, Photo used under Creative Commons

As a a sometimes student of all things architectural educated in the “Western Tradition” I am prone to assign historical styles as a way of valuing architecture.    Modernism arrived in India, along with independence,  in 1947 at a time when there were about 300 trained Indian architects in a country with a population of 330 million.  As a result, architecturally  the new way forward was destined to be lead by European architects and students of the “European Modernists Movement in Architecture,” not the least being Le Corbusier who realized his vision in the city of Chandigarh.  The impact of Modernism was immediate, pervasive and very real.  Architecture in India since Independence has been not only exclusively Modern in Style but further, in the tradition of Le Corbusier, site cast concrete has been/is the prevailing  building material.  Anyone traveling around India today will find a Modernist building-scape imbued with remnants of “High Colonialism” juxtaposed against the ever present and essential “hut” of the rural village and the tarp and stick maize of the urban slum.  Close inspection reveals that concluding that only the last two are native is probably a mistake, for today Indian offices, apartments, schools, public buildings and private houses are clearly, for good or ill, where new flesh is being put on the structural bones of “Modern Architecture.”  To be continued…..India Part II:  New Flesh on Old Bones.

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