Architecture has to be appreciated at many levels. There is the experience of anticipation and comprehension of an idea and a programme, the act of negotiation and coordination of human and natural resources within a defined context, and finally the transformation brought about by the participation in and enjoyment of the built environment in use.
In choosing these building projects, I have tried to represent the diverse realities of the contemporary scene, within the three broad thematic subdivisions of ‘Modernity’, ‘Roots’ and ‘Looking Beyond’. These divisions were defined by the dominant characteristics of the architectural syntax employed in the designs. The translation into building designs of sets-of-ideas and patterns-of-living being the determinant of the quality of the architectural product.
Within the idiom of ‘Modernity’ we see the development of an architecture which adds value to the idea of rapid industrialisation combined with urbanisation, an essential mobility of people and goods, and the theoretic notion of starting from a clean slate. In terms of design language, the characteristics of dynamic spatial organisation, boldly engineered structures, large masses and uniform surfaces define their own context in the landscape. The emphasis is on developing a grammar which signifies an efficient, orderly and industrious environment, with minimum reference to the past. It is an architecture which shares its premises with international developments.
Yet it is significant to note that within this internationalism there exists a particularity which distinguishes its character from similar developments in other parts of the world. Concurrent with the outward-looking ‘Modernity’ there has been the inner-directed search for ‘Roots’ in the land. The values which informed the great buildings of our past, and the diversities of regional culture have fashioned an architecture which uses modern technology to express the genius of locale. The building vocabulary is chosen deliberately to increase awareness of traditional values. Memorials are designed to project the ideals of great contemporary leaders; public buildings relate to the context in which they are placed; and in the creation of public residential architecture the dominant concern is to find appropriate expression for community-living with reference to climate, landscape and the need for spatial and material economy.
‘Looking Beyond’ is symbolic of the ageless quest for discovering a reality which transcends the mundane, yet is grounded in the human condition. In contemporary architecture it is reflected in examples which address the shelter needs of tribals and the poor, as well as those which focus on the timeless tradition of craftsmanship and the developing context of a society in transition. I have tried to choose examples here that are representative of the vast body of work that is being produced in the country.
Of course, my choices are subjective – and dependent on the availability of information at present, which can neither be complete nor definitive. Many significant works may have been left out, but it is perhaps in the nature of things that there is always an unknown.
M. N. Ashish Ganju