Looking through Walls: Architecture in the age of McDonalds
In the heady aftermath of independence, the colonial bungalow was a disturbing sight to the millions of natives celebrating the birth of a new nation. How could the designs of an alien race—however suited they might be to Indian conditions—ever find acceptance among a free people? After 300 years of colonialism, it became essential to replace the bungalow with something new, something that symbolised the spirit of freedom.
Released from architectural bondage, the new Indian was in a mood for some happy experimentation. So, in designing his house he dispensed with archaic notions like comfort, practicality, began to make liberal copies of European palaces and villas from design journals smuggled in from the West. Renaissance windows, Baroque embellishments, Tudor gables began to appear on facades. Inside, a decorative staircase copied from a Hollywood film invariably sat alongside another for the actual climbing; a Gothic window was put in for a view of the milk booth on the road. Mouldings and decorative elements from Germany, Greece and Italy were added in a friendly composition pleasing to the eye, especially when closed. Concrete was the symbol of new India… the terrain, culture or climate did not matter. In time, it all looked alike. At last, Indian architecture was free of domination from any single foreign power!1
- 1. Gautam Bhatia, The Modernitis Plague in India at 60, Outlook Publishing (India), 2007