Bridging Tradition and Innovation
Modern Vernacular – Bridging Tradition and Innovation _ Anna Roos
All architecture reproduces, adopts, and adapts precedents to a greater or lesser extent. After all, none of us grows up or lives in a vacuum. If not always consciously, our built environment affects us on a subliminal, unconscious level. It is the role of architects to react to and interpret their built environment and hopefully, to improve it. The gulf between avant-garde grand gestures of many contemporary buildings and the twee nostalgia of buildings that are designed to be “in-keeping” with historic traditions might seem unbridgeable. The boundary between authentic design and second-rate pastiche is often unclear. How can architects today reconcile these two seemingly irreconcilable approaches into one cohesive approach? Some architects are not dismissive of past precedents, but rather see the legitimacy and “hard-won knowledge” inherent in vernacular buildings and incorporate traditional ideas and construction methods into their work. These architects display the capacity to overcome the dichotomy between drawing knowledge and expertise from the past and creating work that is true to the zeitgeist of the twenty-first century.
In our copy-paste era, when built environments the world over have the same ubiquitous accumulation of high rise buildings and generic shopping malls, it is refreshing to see that there are architects who still believe in the importance of creating architecture that realizes an identity with values and images that are locally cultivated, whilst also reflecting contemporary technology, materials, and ideas. Not an architectural style per se, but an approach to design that reconciles what might at first seem irreconcilable.
For this issue, C3 has selected a collection of projects by various architectural practices from three continents to illustrate the variety of ways in which architects from around the world re-interpret regional building practices and vernacular styles in a modern context. It will be shown how they reinterpret the use of materials, construction methods, and details in new, innovative ways and how they have the capacity to steer architecture away from slavish trendsetting and avoid reducing architecture to a form of high fashion.
ARCHITECTURE IN INDIA
New Indian Identities and Architectural Tectonics
New Indian Identities and Architectural Tectonics _ Gihan Karunaratne
What is India’s contemporary architectural identity, and where do its roots lie? With India’s diverse cultural landscape, its colonial heritage, its various climates and geographies, is there an archetypical identity for its architectural lexicon? If so, how does it manifest itself? From the history of craft development, through the cultural transformations wrought by trade and encounters with colonial powers and the metamorphosis into a young democracy, what are the influences that have been integrated into India’s visual culture and architectural language? After independence, there was a florescence of nationalism. To question and to define Indian singularity, Mahatma Gandhi looked to the traditionalist past, while the first prime minster of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, rejected British legacies and its colonial vernacular, looking forward to the future through an endorsement of modernism.
In 1950, Nehru invited Le Corbusier to design and construct the new city of Chandigarh.
Le Corbusier’s scheme abjured India’s colonial past and inspired the country’s future architectural vocabulary. Government institutions and other important building clients soon adopted this version of modernism – the International style – eschewing traditional social and cultural typologies. With the advent of economic liberalization in the latter years of the twentieth century, India was exposed to new ideas and was able to access new materials and services from rest of the world. India’s architecture again exhibited many western architectural attributes and renounced cultural idioms.1 Today, however, architects and designers are looking to the past and celebrating and drawing on India’s cultural heritage to explore new identities and architectural tectonics. The article explores numerous current architectural examples, from private residences and religious community buildings to an Architect’s own office, to investigate and understand India’s architectural pedigree and address the question of its contemporary architectural identity.