Materials to build India’s identity
When India became a sovereign country free of British rule, the people of India found themselves faced with questions that they did not need to answer before. Citizens, coming from different cultures and origins, began to wonder what post-independence India could represent. Nation-builders now have the choice of making their own future, along with the responsibility of reclaiming its identity – but what is India’s? Was it the temples and huts of the aborigines, the noble palaces of the Mughal era, or the wreckage of British rule? The search for a contemporary Indian sense of carrying the collective history of the citizens towards a future full of hope begins.
In the pursuit of identity revival, history has provided clues. Context, climate, character and sustainability shaped the pillars of traditional Indian architecture and provided precedents for new cities and structures. A new style of architecture began to appear in several regions of the country, synergizing between modern methods of construction and local techniques. Architects and planners began expressing this cultural identity as a reminder of shared values to inspire the patriotic spirit.
Pioneers of modern Indian architecture such as Charles Correa, Raj Rewal and P.V. Doshi developed “rules” of building elements, ornaments, and materials. The bases are slightly curved across the country to accommodate the cultural histories and climatic concerns of individual contexts. Indian architecture has sought identity through local materials with modern techniques. Deeply in tune with cultural and climatic significance, the following materials continue to build contemporary Indian architecture to this day:
Jaali is a local term for “perforated block,” and it comes in the form of brick, cement, clay and wood units. The intricate blocks, borrowed from the Rajput and Mughal eras, create beautiful patterns of light and shadow while airing the interior spaces. The play of steel and emptiness has become a cultural symbol of contemporary Indian architecture and plays the role of designers in the country.
MAC Community Center / Made in Earth
Sharana Day Care Center / Anupama Kondo Architects
With the increasing demand for sustainable architecture across the globe, vernacular land construction has gained prominence in India. Many local architecture practices are exploring the possibilities of the earth as a building material in the forms of taped earth, cattle and stucco, earth and thatch, compacted earth bricks and more.
Sunyata Eco / Design Kacheri . Hotel
Hamsa House / Byoum Environmental Solutions
Oxide is a natural substance that brings an earthy, shiny, and colorful finish to any surface you choose. This technique was brought to the country by the Portuguese and Italians through trade. Local craftsmen also experimented with the material to come up with methodologies that fit the site context. This practice is common in the southern regions of India.
Sheikha’s House / Wall Makers
The traditional lime plaster technique is experiencing a revival in India, where it is known for its breathability and aesthetic qualities. Lime artisans have perfected the eco-friendly method for generations, using special blends and tools to prepare materials and apply them to surfaces.
Yellow Box / Space
mud and dung
The plaster uses locally sourced clay and cow dung – an ancient Vedic mixture. It is known to have better insulating, water repellent and antiseptic properties. This practice is common in the villages of India and is being revived and tried in the cities.
Jetavan Spiritual Center / Samip Badura and Associates
This original roofing system is one of the oldest recognized forms of vernacular architecture in India. Thatch involves the use of dry plants available locally to protect the interior from water and climatic conditions. The material finds itself in contemporary architecture as a meditative, natural and unpretentious element.
TreeVilla in Forest Hills / BRIO . Architecture
India is home to a wide variety of stones such as granite, marble, sandstone, slate, and limestone. Materials have been used from the oldest temples to modern luxury homes, introducing interesting textures and patterns to the building’s material palette. Locally available stone is cost effective and creates a regionally unique aesthetic in architecture.
Rough Dwelling / Brick Tales
Although wood is uncommon elsewhere, it is a common building material in the Himalayas. The material was vernacular in the region, as temples were constructed with wood for practical and religious reasons. The wood is well suited to the climatic conditions of the northern regions. It is otherwise used for its aesthetic qualities in other parts of the country.
Villa in the Woods / Lotus Studio
India is the second largest producer of bamboo in the world and has many artisanal communities trained in building bamboo. Traditional building practices vary across the country along with the local landscape and climatic conditions. Bamboo is popular in the northeastern region of India, where it finds a role in pilot projects across the country.
Avasara Academy / Case Design
Atelier / Byoum Environmental Solutions
Post-independence India was driven by the desire to grow into a prosperous country. A symbol of modernity, concrete came to denote “progress” and is used for its quenching and simple finishing properties. Le Corbusier pioneered the use of concrete in the country, and his visions are still deeply ingrained in the minds of local architects.
Shreyas Retreat / The Purple Ink Studio