In the previous blog (which was my first), I dwelt upon the architectural ignorance of people in all countries including India and promised to talk about the unknown or lesser known heroes called architects. Here I am back with this blog dedicated to famous architects of India (Of India or In India? Is there a difference? You will know the difference as you read this till the end).
The word “famous” is not very clear. People can be famous for crimes too. There was a guy in ancient Greece by the name Herostratus, who destroyed the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, just to make himself famous. And he succeed by the way, thanks to the ancient mass media and Greek historian Theopompus who recorded this event in his book.
So, in this blog I am going to describe what for some or other Indian architect became famous. What impact did he or she(she?… unfortunately there is no prominent “she” on the architectural landscape of India …its “he” all the way. Well, yours truly is trying to make a change there :-p )have on Indian architecture.
Lets start from the well renowned (among page 3 personalities particularly) - Hafeez Contractor. I guess people are not clear in their mind if they like him or not. Yes, his buildings have a lot of “mascara and lipstick” kind of decorative approach. Example you can see on the pic.1 where buildings facades not only have different volumes according to the apartments type inside the buildings but also very decorative contrast game of white and blue colors.
Pic.1 Imperial complex by Hafeez Contractor, Mumbai, India
Hafeez is also famous for not having one predominant design style as he follows clients wishes and test. Smart move it is, as clients love it when architect thinks more about them rather then about his ego and ambitions. But this trait can also prevent one from achieving true greatness and a signature style recognition for generation to come.
Anyway, one thing is for sure, he is promoting high-rise buildings in India which is important for modern urban development. Example is: Imperial complex of 2 residential skyscrapers located in Mumbai, tallest in the country in a moment.
So, lets give credit to Hafeez where its due – that is for his sincere attempts to bringing globalization to the traditional India.
But of course, modern architecture did not start with Hafeez. It happened slightly earlier, thanks God. It is Charles Correawho is praised for bringing architectural European light to the post-Independence India.
But he did not forget about his roots and his buildings are great example of Modern style with influence of Indian traditional methods.
Great example of his work is LIC building, at Connaught Place, New Delhi. As you can see on the pic.2 building consist of clear geometrical blocs which is sign of the modern architecture. Central blocs have shiny glass surface and side blocs are covered with red stone which might be an interpretation of such Indian historical building as Red Fort made of red sandstone. Entrance grope with stairs and greenery also has some flavor of Indian spices.
Pic.2 LIC building by Charles Correa, New Delhi, India
You can ask me: what about Sustainability? It’s quite popular nowadays in European countries. Notice, only those, which have lack of energy resources. Why do you think sustainable buildings are so promoted? Yes, they save money on energy.
In a way, this is a step back in architectural development because architects use local materials and traditional methods of our great-grand parents. But, once it is united with new technologies it can lead to fabulous results.
Credit for promoting Sustainability in India goes to Eugene Pandala. His Earth resort in Banasura (Pic.3), can show you what great mind can achieve if you give it just some local earth to play with. Interesting, that usually rammed earth is used to make one floor high buildings, while banasura main building consist of two stories with total floor area about 20,000 square foot! Notice that all structure has no pillars! Great achievement indeed..
Pic.3 Earth resort by Eugene Pandala, Banasura, India
But I would be failing in my duty to describe the Indian architecture landscape if I were not to mention the notable foreign architects who contributed to it by designing buildings or entire cities and who spent significant part of their lives working in India.
Among foreign architects I would like to start with world famous French architect - Le Corbusier. This blog is not the right place to do justice to his great works and perhaps I will write a series exclusively on him at some point of time, suffice it to say for now that to get a glimpse of his talent you may just visit Chandigarh (Pic.4) – almost entirely his baby.
It is now considered as the best planned Indian city as well as cleanest and greenest city in India. Le Corbusier was its lead planner – assignment which he took up in 1951. Here he could visualize (make true?) his architectural manifesto such as: “a curved street is a donkey track; a straight street, a road for men” (Vers une Architecture - Toward a New Architecture), 1923). Yep, that guy had some vision, had not he?
That man was a genius. Those who are architecturally inclined or those who wish to improve their Architectural Quotient (Remember from the last Blog “AQ”?) will do well to read about his works and life. He wrote such manifesto as: “Five Points of Architecture”, and don’t forget about his famous “Modulor”, based on studies of human body proportions by Vitruvius, Leonardo da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man" and others.
Le Corbusier was lover of geometrical clearance and straight logic (sign of the modern architecture), which he brought to the Indian land in attempt to make it better living place.
Pic.4 Chandigarh by Le Corbusier, India
Where the French shine, can the British be far behind? Perhaps not (thought it may be argued both ways). A predecessor of Le Corbusier in India (but in terms of stature his junior if I may be excused to call him that) was Sir Edward Lutyens – the leading British light in Architecture who designed the central part of Delhi and many buildings therein including the President’s Palace (Rashtrapati Bhawan, Pic. 5), India Gate and Parliament House.
New Delhi within the boundaries of NDMC (New Delhi Municipal Corporation) was conceptualized and planned by Lutyens and hence also known as Lutyens Delhi.
The buildings have a distinct European touch with the use of pillars and friezes and whatnot and yet the buildings are decidedly Indian with the extensive use of red sandstone and domes and curves…
he was both inspired by and incorporated various features from the local and traditional Indian architecture—something most clearly seen in the great drum-mounted Buddhist dome of Viceroy's House, now Rashtrapati Bhavan. Truly monumental work, literally.
Whether you like Lutyen’s Delhi more or Chandigarh will decide which one of these becomes your favourite one, though either ways you can not be wrong !!
Pic.5 President’s Palace by Sir Edward Lutyens, New Delhi, India
And the last but not the least is my favourite – Joseph Allen Stein, a great american architect who contributed his life and work to India. Yes, yes… you heard this name somewhere… Delhi, Lodhi estate… aha! There is a road named after this architect!
No wonder, because he built a lot in Delhi… personally I adore his India Habitat Centre (Pic.6). What? You have not been there? Shame on you. It’s a wonderful brick building complex - monumental and yet comforting as it is matching human scale with its courtyards, stairs and greenery. Somehow it unites features of Indian architecture and modern American style at the same time.
Another example of Stein’s talent is Express Towers, the first high rise built in India, and at the time it was completed, the tallest building in South East Asia.
This architect brought to India “modern regionalism”, as he described it himself. With some “American aftertaste” would add me, which overall made his architectural creations quite delicious stuff.
Pic.6 India Habitat Centre by Joseph Allen Stein, New Delhi, India
Ps. : Of course, there are many more great architects in India, but let us sample these for now. The choice is based on my opinion of importance of the architect’s impact and can vary from your opinion. If so, don’t hesitate to write it in the comments below, cheers ;0