An exhibition by Miki Desai, Retired professor of architecture, CEPT University, Ahmedabad

India is a vast and a complex country with a pluralistic society composed of religious, geographic, ethnic, climatic and linguistic diversity. Its history is full of intense political, temporal and cultural experiences. It is a land of villages but with a long history of urbanization. Today’s vernacular and traditional Indian architecture, therefore, have multiple manifestations in layered built environments. The isolated hamlets of Goa, the eloquent wooden architecture of Kerala, hill dwellings of Himachal Pradesh, stilt-raised houses of the North-East, the wadas of Maharashtra, pol houses and havelis of Gujarat, and the typological desert architecture of Rajasthan demonstrate the country’s regional diversity. Almost as a rule, every dwelling type has been a generative force behind the settlements’ morphology with built-in sustainability through a close connection between lifestyle, nature and architecture.

Within this vast milieu, materiality, technique and craftsmanship bring about the region-specific modifications. Different architectural elements are forged by the carpenters and masons to fashion them. Decoration per se as well as meaningful articulation endow their regional character and personality. A dominant spatial element and the façade typify the dwelling type. Most of the aesthetic qualities, though rendered by artisans, are as a result of people’s daily actions and involvement in life. In that sense, architecture is a significant component of culture and the embodiment of an Indian spirit of life. This exhibition is a result of Prof. Miki Desai’s academic documentation over past forty years. The question to be debated is: How is this genre of architecture with its climate responsiveness, energy efficiency and sustainable processes relevant to the contemporary built environments?