Building the Indian way DESIGN Gargi Gupta New Delhi Business Standard March 29, 2008
Is there an architectural style that you can identify as “contemporary Indian”? Jagan Shah, architect and historian, feels there is and picks on 20 mid-career architects — he calls them the “new moderns” — for an exposition of the “contemporary Indian” (Contemporary Indian Architecture, Roli).
So what is the “contemporary Indian”? No, it’s not an architectural style that merely tacks on “Indian” motifs or symbols to the structure, or mimics vernacular architecture. No, in a globalised world, an architect can’t simply get by on national identity.
What ties together the architects Shah picks on are “multidisciplinary insights” and a widening of respective agendas to include concerns about climate, ecology and gender. It is through the description of structures by them that he comes to a definition of the “contemporary Indian”.
Shah refers to two other vital issues which have had an impact on “creative” expression — the diminishing role of the state in commissioning public buildings, and the fact that with globalisation, architects are concentrating on delivery schedules, quality, detailing, engineering and programming skill. Here’s a look at some of the architects whose works he holds up
Walls have eyes
Auroville-based Anupama Kundoo is first on the list and it is her own residence that Shah holds up as an example of the “contemporary Indian”, identifying it in her attention to three areas: “Eco-friendly building materials, alternative technology, and an architecture that is energy-efficient and climate-responsive”.
Called “The Wall House”, Kundoo’s house is only 2.2 metres wide, made of exposed brick that’s scaled down to the smaller proportions of the local achakal brick.
It’s most distinctive feature is a two-storey-high vaulted verandah at the entrance, made of interlocking clay tubes, which is not just cheap, it is also great for insulation. Energy and costs have been further lowered by the use of solid stone and recycled wood.