First of all, let me say, regarding this directive, that I am completely against any directive, government or otherwise, which in any way interferes with the working of the architect.
However, now that we have gathered here together, l hope we will not spend all our time vindicating ourselves and attacking others. Let us, instead, look around us, at the work we are doing, we ourselves are doing. Is it really architecture?
Sometimes I think it is very lucky for us that we are living in India. It permits us to feel very virtuous, defending our work in the name of Gropius, Corbusier, etc. If we were to build these same buildings in the middle of—say New York or Milan or Tokyo, I wonder who would defend them.
Can there be such a thing as an Indian architecture? First we must ask: can architecture express emotion, the emotion of a human being? What is architecture? Architecture is, has been, and will always be—a projection of the personality of the architect involved. Every reaction he experiences is woven into his work. The climate, the techniques, his own particular temperament, are all there steering the decisions he has to make. For example, Corbusier’s High Court in Chandigarh. The main entrance—it is one of the greatest tour de force ever pulled off in architecture. To enter the building, to stand under the columns is to know what justice is—superhuman justice, justice without mercy, the State, above and beyond the prejudices of the individual. This is architecture—this feeling, this command. If one were to criticise this building, one would not think about the rain and the doors and the airconditioning. These are stupid details. One would question it on one point alone. One would say: Is this justice? Is this a real picture of justice? Should justice be beyond the individual, superhuman, monumental, beyond mercy? Suppose the scale was the scale of a Japanese court, suppose the judge sat on a mat, at the level of the defendant—do you know what I mean?
Architecture is temperament. When you build you are stating yourself. Look at Marine Drive in Bombay, Sundernagar or Jorbag in Delhi—the blue fluorescent lighting—the teak-veneer furniture (bedsteads in the shape of swans, inlaid radiograms). This is modern Indian architecture. It is expressing a large segment of our city population. It is their temperament.
Do you have something better to express?
Our finger must be very surely on the pulse of the people. We must understand their enthusiasms and give it shape and expression according to our values, as Corbusier took justice and gave it shape and expression according to his values. How can we get this rapport with our environment? You cannot say: I want to be Indian. That is stupid. The Frenchman does not say: I want to be French. He is merely trying to be as intelligent as he knows how. It is the rest of us, who see him in perspective, who term his efforts ‘French logic’. The same goes for the ‘methodical’ German, or the ‘practical’ American.
Is there any reason to believe that we should have an Indian architecture—as compared to an American—or a Brazilian—or a Japanese? The answer is perhaps: is there any reason to believe that we have an Indian temperament—as compared to an American, Brazilian or Japanese? The psychology of an Indian—the patterns of his mind, the patterns acceptable to his mind—are they different? The Washington Monument—it is a monument to Washington—to Churchill-=perhaps even to Nehru—could it be a monument to Gandhiji?
There is a great lyricism in the Indian temperament; in the songs, in the poetry. Lyrical—the ability to sing, to make continuous patterns around a theme. Perhaps Indian architecture will be like Mozart—a great lyricism and in the centre a clear concise idea, as clean and hard as a theorem. The house around the courtyard: the clear statement. The tree, the shadows, the texture, providing rhythm, and patterns, and counter-point.
I once read a description of a modern Jewish composer. It said that his music, which is one of the richest intense patterns, was a product of the Hebrew mind, catching values and finding resonance in all the deep, turgid Jewish heritage.
The gentile, or let us say—the sheep-farmer out in sunny Wyoming, has his music too. You do no t have to learn Hebrew to be a Jewish composer.
The best book written on India was written by a man who was here for only a few months—a shy, retiring man, who experienced little—E. M. Forster. His book “A Passage to India” has never been equalled in its incisiveness and compassion. Why is this? Because Forster’s temperament found a resonance in India, just as Bloch finds his in his Jewish past. Forster with his delicate perceptive mind caught India. I will go further: All Forster’s books are Indian, whether they are written about India or not. A book is not Indian or English because it is written in India or England. None of Bromfield’s books are Indian. They are American books in an Indian setting.
There are so many aspects of India. Corbusier, in his own way, has caught India too. (Not the India of Marine Drive.) His savage buildings are the India of the bazaars, and the heat, and the dry cruel plains. Edward Stone has caught another aspect of India. The India of the Thousand and One Nights, of perfume and Hollywood musicals. Next time you think of Corbusier and Stone remember this. It is the essential difference between them.
Architecture is architecture only when it enters this field, this farthest field, this field of the temperament. When solutions are conjured up, selected and rejected, because of the mood and the quality of their feel, because they evoke a resonance in the temperament of the architect.
What is the answer to all this?
Feel deeply for your building, for your environment (never use the word Culture). Do not import ideas like parts of a washing machine. If you have to build a Fuller dome in Mombassa, for heavens sake do it—very often it is very advantageous to do it—but please try and understand what you are doing. The Taj Mahal—in Bombay, in Chicago, in Singapore each time it changes as bit. It takes on a new colouring, a new slant in your mind.
To feel this, to feel this clearly and truly, is perhaps the beginning of architecture.