Almost every politician and public figure who visits India, makes sure to get under the spotlight with Taj Mahal’s tranquil landscape at the background. There is a sense of calmness and melancholy at the same time to the place that’s been taking visitors hearts for centuries now.
As great and notable as Taj Mahal is, we should know that the history of Indian architecture design has long existed before Taj Mahal and have long prospered after this fabulous monument.
There are countless other tipping points throughout the history of Indian architecture; like the traditional Vastu Shastra temples, Stupas that are filled with intricate ornaments, rock-cut worship caves that always invoke visitors’ admiration, and stepped pyramids; all of which date back to the past millennia.
What part of these Indian architecture styles still play a role in the country’s architecture arena today?
India has partied to numerous cultural exchanges throughout its long history. That’s actually why this country has been host to a festival of religions, customs, and inspiring beliefs and conventions.
The Indian design has not been an outsider to all these centuries of mingling traditions, so its current state can’t be associated with only a few ancient styles. It’s way more complicated than that.
Centuries of British colonization, and the following decades of independence and efforts to come up with a domestic narrative on modernity can be counted as the immediate background of today’s Indian designs.
There are big examples that set the scene for what we see in India today; all of which we’ll get to here.
We want to examine the contemporary wonders of Indian architecture. We want to dig into some of the best-established Indian architecture characteristics by bringing you its best fruits.
So, let’s get to it and begin exploring the roots and fruits of contemporary Indian architecture.
1. Le Corbusier's utopian city, Chandigarh
There’s been a lot of debate about whether Le Corbusier’s master urban design in Chandigarh where he poured all his years of accumulated experience, fares well enough against different realities of a growing dynamic urban life.
All the quibble aside, Chandigarh is a monologue of mid-century modernist values where its biggest teacher dictates how a city should be.
Chandigarh, as a breakthrough in the contemporary history of Indian architecture design, was the statesmen’s post-independence effort, spearheaded by the Indian Prime Minister, to bring about a breeze of change to the country’s new aspirations; to join modernism and the domestic Indian architecture characteristics.
It can be best distinguished by Le Corbusier’s use of rough precast concrete moldings, limited use of sharp colors, and its abstract geometric shapes and forms.
In its modernist message, Chandigarh is close to Brasilia in Brazil by Oscar Niemeyer; where both have been recognized as being roughly successful in satisfying a flourishing population of half a million people that have grown to more than a million today.
2. Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad
Chandigarh paved the way for further implantation of modern narratives into the Indian architecture design.
While Le Corbusier’s visual aesthetics in the planned city seemed stripped of all the history of Indian architecture (just like how he’d behaved other ancient styles), Louis Kahn defied modernist values by his own rules in the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad.
He blended his revolutionized vision for an educational institution with the Indian architecture’s archetypes. He challenged lecture-oriented classrooms as the primary place of education.
In the eastern philosophy of study, classrooms were the common environment where teaching would happen.
Instead, he created plentiful opportunities for students of different sorts to gather, pollinate, share, discuss, and learn.
Kahn handsomely used abstractions of the Indian architecture characteristics in his swiss-cheese brick and concrete complex where the Indian elite can prosper “together”.
3. Lotus Temple, New Delhi
Just like the Indian Management Institute, Lotus Temple created a new horizon for millennia of worship house design in the land of religion. It has been named Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent.
As a Bahá'í House of Worship, the Iranian architect, Fariborz Sahba, has designed this temple after the form of a Lotus flower.
The white marble cladding of the shells has made Lotus Temple the crown of the Indian architecture's contemporary spiritual design of the recent history.
It’s twenty-seven concrete petals make three rounds of the outer, middle, and inner circles where according to the guardians of the house, everybody, regardless of their religion and spiritual belonging, is welcome to visit and share sentiments.
That may be why Lotus temple is among one of the most visited houses of worship around the world.
4. Sangath in Ahmedabad
Sangath is the workplace of the world-renowned Indian architect, Balkrishna Doshi. He has stroked his touch in a genuine modern Indian design example that reconciles India’s traditional design principles with modern traits.
Here, Doshi has used an eloquent modern language to emphasize the nature that surrounds the studio. The simplicity of the minimal forms at Sangath, where Doshi used to work, derives the unconscious eye to the detailed foliage of trees that lay around the complex.
According to the architect himself, he has been influenced by famous modern architects in his design here. The green waterfall steps around the building resembles Alvar Aalto’s Finnish style; just as much, Doshi’s pick for the base mosaic work, reminds the viewer of Antonio Gaudi’s spectacular work in the early twentieth century.
And finally, his use of water is close to Luis Barragán or Louis Kahn’s obsession with serene water currents in their design.
Through the history of Indian architecture’s busy timeline, Sangath can be counted as one of the most progressive designs of its day.
5. The Institute for Integrated Learning in Management by Morphogenesis
As we move further along this timeline of the Indian design, we can look at newer projects that define the most recent trends of domestic Indian architecture characteristics.
Here, like the duality of interpretation we had on Doshi’s Sangath, the dormitory of the Institute for Integrated Learning in Management in Greater Noida, India can also be seen as a response a rather opposing pair of concerns.
Both the tough climate of Noida and the cultural bearing of the Old Delhi (or Shahjahanabad) over at one side of the seesaw, and today’s minimal, functional approach weighing down on the other side, seem to have been top on Morphogenesis priority list of design criteria.
The whole complex is comprised of four giant brick blocks where each one is bitten off by an open central courtyard that can be partly overlooked from the neighboring streets that either encircle and cut through the institute.
The spongy form of the blocks helps with natural ventilation across the whole complex while creating visual and spatial gathering spots for students to socialize and experience the place with their fellow-residents.
In this particular regard, it’s not totally irrelevant to think of Louis Kahn’s masterpiece in Ahmedabad we admired a couple lines up; the two examples are similar.
6. Yellow Train School in Tamil Nadu, India
The name of the Indian architecture firm gives its intention away. “Yellow Train School” is Biome Environmental Solutions’ way to accommodate a child-care education center’s sophisticated needs.
Again, Louis Kahn’s domestically minimal and expressive footprints at Ahmedabad Management Institution might seem present here, but Biome Environmental Solutions have mastered their modern teacher here.
By creating different visual and lateral stimulations, the building intends to groom children’s sense of creativity, playfulness, discovery, and fantasy. All qualities that reward impulsive collaboration and individual probe and development.
Playgrounds, classes, central yards, hallways, gathering places, and short atria all help instigate the aforementioned cues in children; minors that will probably have good memories of the place well past their adolescence.
Yellow Train School can absolutely be counted as one of the most progressive examples of the fruitful Indian design today. It both reflects the modernist values and the country’s climatic, cultural roots where the building is located.
7. Pali Hill House, Mumbai
A single luxurious adobe might not represent the life of the majority of more than a billion Indians, but we included Pali Hill House as part of the mainstream contemporary history of Indian architecture design because it paints the canvas by what urban-dwelling Indians praise and cherish as an ideal house.
The introvert history of Indian architecture characteristics has been respected at this house.
Generally as an eastern mentality, the urban environment and its juxtaposition of public and private areas with medium spaces in between, is apparent in the design of this Indian design.
Layers of vertical wooden bars, tinted glass, and screening plants veil the private life that goes on in the apartment.
They prevent any disclosure at first sight; but once you get inside, small clerestory yards and secluded and private gardens with both natural and artificial lighting blows the serene soul of a traditional Indian house inside. This soul is what used to bring solace from all the hassle of an Indian city and all its bustling vibe.
8. Wall House by Anupama Kundoo Architects
We are deliberately capping our discussion of the Indian architecture styles by houses like Pali Hill and Wall House.
Wall house, designed and built by Anupama Kundoo Architects, is an ambitious effort to redefine the fabric of the concept of home in the Indian architecture.
They both are an indication of what the future might bring to the Indian residents.
Wall house exploits local material to the fullest; vase-locked vaults, locally precast concrete, brick walls, and raw wood are all available easily on site.
Revolving panels at the eastern façade will adjust according to residents’ will; allowing them to expand their private living space whenever there are no guests to tend to.
The spotted panels, tall arched clay vaults, and the use of locally-sourced material are the designer’s response to the hot and semi-humid climate.
Plus, the overall form of the house along with its material ensures thermal comfort through natural ventilation and passive conditioning.
As you can see, contemporary history of Indian architecture can’t be characterized by a single collective trend or style; just as we expected from the Indian architecture’s millennia-long mingling with other cultures worldwide.
But certain examples can pinpoint the momentum of popular Indian architecture styles today.
All these styles are a trade-off between the traditional, climate-aware Indian forms and today’s decoration-free, functional solutions.
They almost started with Le Corbusier’s brutal Chandigarh monuments, growing into a toned-down version of Louis Kahn’s Management Institute, and giving way to progressive architecture firms within the country;
A promising, diverse landscape for the Indian architecture indeed.
What other Indian buildings give you goosebumps? Help us and our readers learn more about this great land’s architecture by sharing in the comments section below.