Understanding Modernism with India


Modernism is an attitude. An attitude of breaking away from the mainstream or challenging the old and traditional attitudes. Modernity has many different meanings, one of which is the new in opposition to the old. Modernity, Octavio Paz says is an exclusively western concept that has no equivalent in any other civilizations. Modernity is a concept that gives present a quality that makes it different from the past. Modernity is a constant conflict with the traditional. It is an idea that cannot have fixed attributes or values. In the 19th century there was modernity in the economic, political fields with great development in the industries and also urbanization. With this modernity became more than an intellectual concept. The term modernization is used to describe the process of social development and is the main feature of urbanization, industrialization, democratization and increase in world trade market. The process of modernization is continuous and the idea of modernity changes every time there are changes in the technology.

Along with modernism many different ideas came into picture. These ideas changed the world and its art and architecture. The idea of modernity changed after these terms were introduced. Some of these were, cubism, the idea of cubism was to depict objects from multiple view points and creating abstract art works using broken forms. Futurism was a movement that emphasized the dynamism, speed, energy and power of machine in the modern life. The idea of constructivism was introduced in Russia, it was influenced by cubism and futurism. In constructivism abstract geometric forms were being made by the use of plastic, steel and glass.  Impressionism was an idea the painters used to paint visual reality using colors and effect of light. The movement of symbolism emphasized on individual emotional experience through the stubble use of symbolized language. Expressionism was about depicting emotions and not the objective reality. De stjil was a movement that included art and architectural forms using straight lines, rectangular forms and also use of primary colors and use of black, white and grey. The Bauhaus movement was also an important one as it was the first one to challenge all the defined terms related to modernity before. The Bauhaus inspired many architects and artists of the world and gave a new perspective to look at architecture and buildings.

In India modernism came with the colonial rule. Initially the idea of modernism was not known as there were many traditional, orthodox practices in the country which did not allow the entry of any foreign culture. In the modern movement of India Raja Ravi Varma was one of the first painters who took inspirations from the other world cultures like impressionism, symbolism and also influenced by the paintings of renaissance he drew the god and gave god an image. Relating the idea of the modern to the architectural development in India it was influenced by the art deco movement. It was also influenced by the regional motifs. Buildings in Calcutta and Mumbai of the art deco style were of great importance at that time. The buildings were very simple with chajjas, balconies etc. Even the neo classical was considered at modern until the 1960’s.

Modernism in India was more like an approach to life. It meant designing the world in a positive manner.  Improving the standard of living of the people and being progressive and inventive. The great minds behind creating a modern India were Nehru, Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. Gandhi emphasized on urgent need of social change and personal ethical transformation, Nehru saw hope in the technological advancement and taking India to the next level in all the fields, Tagore championed a deep relation with the nature with the idea of creating a more humane society. Looking at the development of the infrastructure post-independence many of the Indian architects returned from abroad. The two important were Charles Correa who was trained in USA and Achyut Kanvinde who was trained from MIT, and also had worked with Walter Gropius the make of the Bauhaus. Also Nehru invited Le Corbusier to India to contribute to the developing architecture of the nation. Along with Corbusier came B.V. Doshi, another important architect in the making of modern India. Other architects that contributed were Louis Kahn, Buckminster Fuller and F.L.Wright. In the course of the development of the modern India not only buildings but cities got designed on the hieroglyphics of Corbusier’s Chandigarh. Vidyadharnagar city plan by Doshi imbibed the essence of interspersed pedestrian pathways, hierarchical road structure, diagonal greens and so on. Louis Kahn created poetry in brick at the campus of Indian Institute of Management. Brick masonry- considered to be the local material found very different dimensions through three dimensional structural arches. City learnt a new way of building in brick and also upgraded its quality of construction having trained through rigorous and stricter construction norms and practices of Kahn. It also gave legitimacy to bare aesthetics of exposed (unplastered) brick construction – alien to place and people then. However, institutes and residences since half a century then continue to admire and emulate this modern aesthetics and outlook.

The modern was questioned again by the architects. The architects used local materials in a different way which also responded to the climate of the region. Thus bringing in the use of traditional techniques to build buildings with modern ideas.

“Doshi has entrusted us through his writings and his architectures, an idea of modernity as an infrastructure, as a principle, a plot on which life can take root and not the cage in which to enclose it and the palimpsest on which various sediments can input. An idea of modernity where a conscious freedom of expression is the result of mediation and not the impulse of a moment in which reality can be grasped in its complexity. Modernity then, is not made up of shapes, nor of easily recognizable stylistic features but of principles which can activate interactive and co-existence processes with the sole aim to improve our lives, principles which can keep the authentic modern promise to  make us moving together through participation.”[i]

The same philosophy is being used to make his own office SANGATH, which is an experience of his own life and also the outputs of his learnings from his life.

Balkrishna Vithaldas Doshi grew up in a large traditional bound joint family. After finishing his architecture at jj college, he went to Britain and from there he went to work with Le Corbusier. Doshi had a lot of values and he went to the deepest aspect of understanding architecture. Doshi was one of the architects who was under the influence of both modern and traditional. He also returned to India when there was a movement of modernization. Initially he supervised sites for le Corbusier but then started his own practice in Ahmedabad. In those days Ahmedabad was considered to be a city which was at the forefront in making a new nation. At the beginning of his practice Doshi had a question of “what is architecture?” rather than “what is modern architecture?” or “what is Indian architecture?” Doshi’s four pillars and inspirations were gokuldas narayandas, le Corbusier, Rabindranath Tagore and M.K. Gandhi.

In his initial projects which were his own house and the houses of both is daughters, tejal and manisha. He has questioned the idea of dwelling. Dwelling are the most primary form of architecture. They are designed for specific individuals and families. Doshi creates an enclosed space sort of a mandapam in the kamala house. This is an ancient architectural theme, an archetype that informs Kerala nallukettu. The plan is simple which a square centering four columns. It forms a grid. In tejal’s house at the first glance it is an asymmetric from with angular and curvilinear surfaces. In manisha’s house the four columns are used but they don’t form a mandapam instead with the columns there is a stepped platform and this recalls the traditional “otla” or entrance platform on the street.

Doshi’s office sangath, meaning moving together in participation, is a very different building from all his other works. It is the mixture of all his learnings since he started his journey in architecture. Doshi was always inspired by earth hugging structures and the way one approaches the Indian temple. The movement from the entrance forecourt to the meandering path then onto the water pool and amphitheater precedes arrival at the modest entry. At the beginning of that path is a mural of a tree that used to be there but as removed during the time of construction. The office building is treated like an institution here. Doshi considers sangath to be not only an office but a place of interaction and learning. Thus he makes the movement in the building free. Parallel wall systems is used and various levels have been created by using mezzanine floors like one in the drafting room. Similar system is being used in the institutes built by him like CEPT, Shreyash School and IIM, Bangalore. For Doshi institution is a place where all the spaces are like crossroads of the world where ideas are exchanged and new things are learnt. Also Doshi makes these open garden spaces which make meetings and gatherings possible. The amphitheater with grass steps merges the building with the ground. The inside outside sense is ambiguously manifested. Some of the elements in the building are inspired from the ear shaped pools of Corbusier, amphitheater, Gaudi’s broken china mosaic and a water feature from Kahn’s salk institute. The play of light in the building is interestingly articulated. The spaces receive light according to the requirement. And the light is diffused by making small openings on the sides of the vaults. There is use of china mosaic on the vaults which reflect the light back and the water channels are articulated in a way that the wind cools down before entering the space.


B.V. Doshi is an architect for whom the idea of modern merges with the idea of modern. Inspired from traditional buildings and early Indian architecture Doshi articulates and fits the learnings from them in his buildings as we have learnt. Doshi uses very sensitive and powering concepts, difficult to explain in buildings and makes a modern building using local materials and thus merging the traditional and modern.


other refrences: books- harnessing the intangible

architecture and modernity a critique by hilde heynen

yatin pandya’s article on modern architecture of india




Modernism and Post Modernism both fight to grab a place in the architect’s mind. But it is modernism the architect who decides on basis of their morals and values. Mies told “LESS IS MORE” whereas Venturi replied to it sarcastically by saying “LESS IS BORE”. So according to Venturi the idea of modernism was to make things look more ornamental and to romanticize architecture by adding more and more to it but still keeping the aesthetics of the building.

It is said that modernism started in New York and postmodernism started in Las Vegas by the building of different hotels and the idea that the appearance of the building should convey the function of the same. The earlier buildings in vegas like MGM hotel. Hotel Venetian etc. these hotels just replicate their names. Example the Venetian hotel has structure like the city of venice. Another example given in the text is about the piazza in new orlean. The plaza is made in a way one gets experience of Italy looking at all the decorated facades with all the column orders used in one go. This is just to decorate and to give a sense of Italy by just putting them with no meaning. This is the way postmodernism came up in vegas and other places.

Post modernism is basically everything after modernism. So all the buildings and ides that came up after the 1970’s are considered to be postmodern. Post modernism challenged many ideas of modernism like symmetry and went into abstraction, it challenges the use of material. It challenges the idea of ornamentation. The best example of breaking the symmetry and making abstract forms is the Guggenheim museum, Bilbao Spain. The form is challenged and the symmetry is broken. Another architect is Zaha Hadid who challenges material and form both and makes free flowing structures which may people told couldn’t stay. Another architect who collects and builds is Carlos Scarpa. The idea of collections is basically collecting different forms and shapes and putting them together in a way which one can relate with and also choosing the right material that could express the form to the fullest.

It is not that modernism didn’t have such characteristics, it’s just that the values then and now have changed and the ideas are put together in a correct manner to make one experience the space or building. There were many failures in the postmodern architecture where the building was supposed to be something and it became something else.

But I feel that post-modernism is a trend as the way it is progressing challenges all the notions of buildings, space and many other ideas. But it is applicable only if the ideas of postmodernism are implemented in a correct manner.

It is necessary to learn from the mistakes that the early postmodern architects did and absorb the ideas of the latter. One might get leaded to super modernism.

The Instant Poetry

Archiit chatterjee is a new friend of mine, i met him in college when he joined the college in second year. he earlier studied in Alana college of architecture and now is studying with me in school of environment and architecture.

We became close after the goa study trip we had. We both mimic people and also laugh and do crazy stuff like mad people do. We also have a practice  to have breakfast together in college. everyday day we go with our other friends and have breakfast at anna’s joint. this is how we nourish our friendship.

in this post I am sharing some instant poetry that we did just while chatting on whattsapp. It is in urdu. We both developed this art while we both were in a seminar that college arranged for a week, it was about urdu poetry.


[5/18, 11:56 PM] sitoo🐼: Dard hai bahut ghera mera,
Na samje kab hoga sabera,
Andharkar ka chaya hai dhera,
koi haat thamlo mera,
kheecho zara muje tu kudha hai mera.
[5/18, 11:56 PM] sitoo🐼: Aadab
[5/18, 11:57 PM] Archit: Last me add kar aur kuch
[5/18, 11:57 PM] Archit: Baki subhanallah
[5/18, 11:57 PM] sitoo🐼: Last mein kidhar
[5/18, 11:58 PM] Archit: Kheecho k pehle
[5/18, 11:58 PM] sitoo🐼: Soochta hu
[5/18, 11:59 PM] Archit: Ha
[5/18, 11:59 PM] sitoo🐼: Dekhu zara hota hai kya sabera
[5/18, 11:59 PM] Archit: Ha aur kuch
[5/18, 11:59 PM] sitoo🐼: Saale nazm likhu kya ba
[5/18, 11:59 PM] sitoo🐼: Ab*
[5/19, 12:00 AM] Archit: Likh de nazm ah mere dost
[5/19, 12:01 AM] Archit: Likh de apni dil ki dard
[5/19, 12:01 AM] sitoo🐼: Abhi soone ja raha hu
[5/19, 12:01 AM] sitoo🐼: Saturday ko
[5/19, 12:01 AM] Archit: Duwa kar us khuda se jisne banaya nazm walo ko
[5/19, 12:01 AM] Archit: Duwa kar us khuda se
[5/19, 12:01 AM] Archit: Jisne banaya nazm walo ko
[5/19, 12:01 AM] sitoo🐼: Jisne banay nazm walo ko
[5/19, 12:03 AM] sitoo🐼: Ki shayar bhi ban gaya mein bhul ke mere saalon ko
[5/19, 12:03 AM] Archit: Chand toh wese bhi chip jata hai .. Badal ho ya andhar ho
[5/19, 12:03 AM] Archit: Ek no
[5/19, 12:03 AM] sitoo🐼: Phir bhi kehete hai
[5/19, 12:03 AM] sitoo🐼: Dil wale leke jayange dulhaniya ko
[5/19, 12:04 AM] sitoo🐼: Magar bhai papad kaun belega barat mein khilaneko
[5/19, 12:05 AM] sitoo🐼: Main bolta hu ki likhu to usko paayar jata ne ko
[5/19, 12:05 AM] Archit: Waah
[5/19, 12:05 AM] sitoo🐼: Magar sapna hai abhi tut jane ko
[5/19, 12:05 AM] Archit: Aha
[5/19, 12:06 AM] sitoo🐼: Amir paisa kamata hai udane ko magar muflis jama karta hai apno ka peth bharane ko
[5/19, 12:07 AM] sitoo🐼: Main bolta hu kudha ne banya to dil se uske bando ko
[5/19, 12:08 AM] sitoo🐼: Magar dil mein se pathar nikalna sikhaya is zamaneko
[5/19, 12:08 AM] Archit: Waah
[5/19, 12:08 AM] sitoo🐼: Aadab
[5/19, 12:08 AM] sitoo🐼: Aadab
[5/19, 12:08 AM] Archit: Waah
[5/19, 12:08 AM] Archit: Miya waah
[5/19, 12:08 AM] sitoo🐼: Apna archive karna chiyea sab chat
This is how friendship flourishes, with understanding, with maturity and child like attitude.
Friendship is the key to a happy life. 

The State of Architecture, Mumbai

The State Of Architecture in India


The state of architecture is an exhibition showcasing how architecture in India changed its course and the way it advanced in different aspects. It also accounts all the buildings and other events be it political or social and the way they affect the way they are built and also the reason why they were made. The exhibition also takes us through the journey also takes us through a lot of idea and raises questions about smart cities, role of architect and architecture etc.
Architecture is a form of art which is interrelated to many other fields. It is the art of building and designing. It is collaboration of ideas and diagrams. It is a product of cultures, different ideologies, needs and necessities. Architecture is a play of materials and forms and space. There are many other ways architecture can be defined.


“What is architecture anyway? Is it the vast collection of the various buildings which have been built to please the varying taste of the various lords of mankind? I think not.

“No, I know that architecture is life; or at least it is life itself taking form and therefore it is the truest record of life as it was lived in the world yesterday, as it is lived today or ever will be lived.

“Architecture is that great living creative spirit which from generation to generation, from age to age, proceeds, persists, creates, according to the nature of man, and his circumstances as they change. That is really architecture.”

  • Frank Loyd Wright


Architecture has been existing in the nation and the world since the early ages and has developed substantially until today. Earlier the ideas of building were different and the purpose was as important as building.  But today the form and the idea of space and use of material has completely different. The idea of architecture has taken different turns one where you follow certain principles and ethics whereas the other you just build and forget. It is an architect’s call what does he or she need. But at the same time it is also the call of the consumer. In architecture the consumer is the most important entity in the process as it may or may not have knowledge about the field.

Architecture in India started developing with the Harappa civilization in the Indus valley. Further development began in the mauryan period by building of the sachi stupa and other such stupas around the country and also other structures. Also the temples had carvings about the stories of the gods and other cultural stories.  The architecture was with the material stone and the material had its own quality thus making the structures bulky and long lasting.

Until the colonies came in the architecture remained with stone and with carvings, but once the different colonies came in the state of architecture changed and new styles came in. new materials came in, also different colonies had different styles. For example the Portuguese used wood and laterite to make houses in Goa in response to the climate and by using the material available. There were certain features that the Portuguese introduced and built accordingly. Whereas on the other hand the British made buildings using  stone in smaller modules and later on started using rcc and other materials. Some of the new styles that came up during this period were neo-classical and art nouveau. The first architects in the 19th century were Fredirick Willams Stevens, Sameul Jacob, Charles Wyatt and Henry Irwin. These were the ones who came up and made remarkable structures.

After independence architects like le Corbusier were invited to India and design government buildings and plazazs. With Corbusier came new ideas, values and understanding of architecture. The way he used concrete and color was very different modern. Other architects like Louis Kahn and Laurie Baker used bricks to express their form of architecture and the people got exposed to these new forms. Architects like B.V.Doshi and Charles Correa bought in the Indian philosophy and ideologies while designing the building and executed them in a decent manner. The response to climate and topography was taken into consideration and buildings were designed. The architects also used glass and steel construction techniques in some projects. Architects like Raj Rewal and Achyut Kanvinde along with B.V.Doshi made many institutional buildings and changed the idea of and institution from a closed space to a highly open interactive space.

The architecture today is different. The way the building are made are completely commercialized and money earning agendas. The architects either make a good building by using certain values and principles or make bad buildings just to earn money. The buildings have advanced so much that the facade over powers the building with its huge glass cladding.

The idea of modernism has changed the way architecture has. As they both travel together. In the colonial age the neo classical architecture was modern whereas today there is no perfect definition of what is modern. As the state of architecture is continuously changing.

There are still lots of questions unanswered on the state of architecture and its course. Also the idea of modern and modernity and modernism remains unanswered in the correct manner.

The Graphics


This is an abstract interpretation of a crane that can transform into a gyrosphere in which one can sit and move. So Basically its like a Transformers character. I call it “The Crane”. I got inspired from transformers. I just made a module and then i did repeated it but still its a secret !!!!

Mumbai ki Baarish.

This is a poem that came to mind in the rainy season of 2015 when I was hearing a lot about rains. Some people told the rains were so irritating while some told the rains were wonderful.

When it rains in Mumbai one can smell the mud and the trees. When it rains the environment rejuvenates and comes to life. The cool winds give a pleasant feeling.  And while getting up in the morning one feels so lazy the one tends to get late in daily routines. The rains are enjoyed by everyone in Mumbai but there is a section who suffer a lot during rains. The rains are important for the living as many factors are dependent on rains.

But sometimes the rains also destroys the settlements or create problems in the city. For example the floods in Mumbai in 2005 and also the heavy floods in Chennai and Uttrakhand. There are many more low lying areas in the country that face floods every year it rains. The people lose their houses sometimes also their beloveds in the floods. But the importance of rain is known. So how to deal with the floods and other calamities that are created by rains. But that is not what this writing is about. The solutions would be discussed in a later post maybe.

so this is how the poem begins (its in hindi):

“aao sunau ek dastan, unko jo hai baarish se pareshan,

soocho agar baarish na hoti to hota kisan sukhe se pareshan,

baarish na hoti to sukhe mein desh pareshan,

baarish na hoti to ped pudhe sukhe se pareshan,

baarish na hoti to baacho ka bachpan pareshan,

soocha agar baarish na hoti to hota jag pareshan,

magar bina baarish ke kaise jumegi mumbai meri jaan

magar bina baarish ke kaise jumegi mumbai meri jaan. “

(meaning in english)

“come i will tell a story to those who are annoyed by the rains,

think if there would be no rain, then the farmers would suffer from draught,

if there would be no rain, then the nation would suffer from draught,

if there would be no rain, then the plants would suffer,

if there would be no rain, then the childhood of kids suffers,

if there would be no rain, then the whole nation would suffer,

but without rains how will my city of mumbai dance.”