Architectural expression is a wide term covering not only the outward manifestation of the inner purpose of a building or a group of buildings, i.e., an expression and indication of the total building programme, but also the close education of the human ego with the materials and mode of construction, which contribute to aesthetic sensation. Architectural achievement thus becomes a landmark of the pattern of society indicating resources, spiritual and material, as well as economic and technical limitations.
The human mind has been struggling against restrictions of technology and resources, directing all its efforts to overcome these, so as to achieve emotional freedom. The resourceful master discovered an answer to his problem by grafting reforms on the tradition, which directly influenced the architectural expression of the time.
History of architecture reveals that expression improved gradually with the development in technique. It has a simple origin in primitive cave-dwellings, sheep-skin tents, the hut and lake-dwellings on wood stilts. Here it aimed at protection from inclement weather, wild beasts and other enemies. The crude imperfections reveal the story of resources and existing social pattern.
The trabeated style of the Greeks had its origin in wood construction. Its limited structural organisation directly reflected on the plan. Due to structural limitations, the Greeks concentrated on refinement and achieved beauty through perfection of workmanship.
The colossal monuments of Egypt express the social conditions of the country under the Pharaohs. Without forced labour of a vast population of slaves and captives, such massive structures would have been impossible.
The warrior Assyrians and Persians believed in material satisfaction instead of spiritual mysteries and built luxurious palaces, decorated with pictures of hunting and fighting.
Absence of stone in Babylonia caused the development of brick construction. which resulted in the evolution of arches and vaults instead of a simple trabeated construction.
Daring and skilful application of the knowledge of engineering principles during the Gothic period gave rise to the system of covering space by means of vaults and light masonry infilling.
Today we find ourselves in possession of extensive knowledge of the machine age. Distances have been reduced and knowledge and social patterns have almost become universal. The vast world has shrunk so that we can even imagine it as being a small village. The tremendous advancement in science enables us to obtain structural systems of unique satisfaction: Huge voids can easily be covered and space can be enclosed to any desired height vertically. For the first time in history, advancement in science and technology have given freedom from restriction to mankind.
The present-day architect works under circumstances different from those of his predecessors. In the bygone periods the master-builder catered to the needs of individuals and built palaces, mansions and places of worship, to suit the taste and culture of individual clients. Today, the architect has to cater to the needs of the common man. He has to vie expression to the growth, progress and culture of a generation. The building technology has spread into a variety of specialised branches. Machines have occupied an indispensable position in the organisation of building programme. The architect has to act as a coordinator, as a man of vision and professional competence. His business is to unify all the social, technical, economic and aesthetic problems, which arise in the construction of buildings and with his acceptance of the importance of industrialisation, he has to explore the new relationship dictated by racial and scientific progress. The character of present day architecture must obviously be the reflection of the environment effected by progressive advancement in accordance with the march of time.
In the past, technological limitation and possibilities of structure have been a source of architectural inspiration. Today, the limitations have disappeared and possibilities in structural sphere have increased to such an extent that these have become the major compelling forces influencing expression. Each new addition in the advance of technique has created a desire to take advantage of it.
India has its own problems due to its tropical climate with its dry and wet regions. The geological conditions afford excellent variation of building materials. Its glorious architectural inheritance and cultural traditions have added colour to its buildings in the past. The intellectual and spiritual advancement of its people, as seen in the excavations at Mohan-jo-daro in Sindh and Harappa in the Punjab, reveal the advancement of its civilisation.
The spiritual affinities of the people resulted in erection of temples and monasteries. This group of buildings formed the nucleus of community life and achieved prime importance in the lay out of Indian cities. As a matter of fact, no other building was allowed to be built higher than the temple Shikhara. The temple plan was governed by the trabeated mode of construction and the ultimate form and expression was the direct outcome of the construction. Even facades of the rock- cut caves of the Buddhists show treatment based on timber mode of construction.
The corbelled horizontal stone courses gave conical shape to the arch and the Shikhara of the temple. The temples have usually an entrance porch (Mandapam) cruciform on plan, the column with bracketed capital and angular struts which supported domes, built with horizontal courses of stone which exerted no lateral support. The rock-cut temples and caves have full facial treatment of timber mode of construction, probably to relieve the blank and full face by creating shade and shadows on the surface.
Mohammedan invasion during the 13th century induced Saracenic influence, which flourished during Pathan and Moghal dynasties. The inhuman and ruthless conversion of Hindus to Islam and also converting Hindu temples to mosques by using defaced materials from existing temples, had its distinctive influence on architectural expression.
Groups of buildings at Bijapur, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, etc., introduced evolution of immense number of typical details. The introduction · of pendentive construction was a bold departure from tradition and brought a new expression in Indian architecture.
Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur, the Taj at Agra and intricate trellis work of Ahmedabad are symbols of the advancement in technique and refinement of details wonderfully evolved for solving the thermal insulation problem peculiar to the tropics.
The domestic plan centred round an open court surrounded by living rooms. The typical staggered entry to the court and intricate galleries on upper floors formed distinct expression of Hindu culture and pattern of living.
A wide gulf has been created between the above traditions and presentday Indian architecture, due to British rule during A. D. 1746 to 1947.
Since Independence, rapid development is taking place in every sphere. We are called upon to evolve “Indian Architecture”. What should be the expression? The layman points towards chatries or surface treatment of some old buildings. In this age of advancement, are chajjas. chatries, arches, domes or brackets an answer to the problem? These would hardly be acceptable from economic point of view and due to the need for conservation of resources.
Present-day problems arc different. Today, our multi-purpose projects are our temples. Mausoleums and monuments are out of place in present-day society.
The advances in science and technology, the new materials being processed and placed on the market and the progress in industrialisation and methods of prefabrication, as weJ! as means of mass production, challenge architectural ingenuity and imagination. Architectural expression must and will change under such influences.
To foster and develop national spirit in architectural expression, it is desirable to introduce effective reforms in architectural education and training of students. Students possessing proper scientific knowledge and background of history and culture which are mainly responsible for the evolution of inheritage, will contribute endless varieties of original forms within the limits of imagination. Skilful application of the principle shall yet produce results, native and natural.