An article on how techniques from the Chola era inspired Anand Malligavad to ease a water challenge in urban India had me intrigued. In the quest to clean and revive lakes, he is guided by Chola techniques like creating separate lagoons along the lakes, where silt and garbage can be separated from sewage, with human waste later used as fertilizer. And using a Chola method called “ridges to river,” he constructs mud walls in a cascading shape that transport excess water during rain to lakes in lower areas before it ends up in a river. Along the way, the flow supports agriculture.
Driving through Mumbai, I have often wondered that if Raja Raja Chola and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj were to visit what would they say to the architects of India?
Architects here refers to decision makers ranging from Governments, civic bodies, urban planners and builders to experts who commission the creation of public and private buildings.
Evidence of Human Creativity & Ingenuity
Architecture in India holds a unique place in history, with a magnificent heritage that spans centuries. From the awe-inspiring temples of the Chola dynasty to the impregnable forts of Shivaji, our architectural legacy is a testament to human creativity and ingenuity. However, as we gaze upon the drab and chaotic urban landscapes of modern India, it becomes apparent that architecture is more than mere aesthetics. It has a profound impact on the well-being of those who inhabit these spaces. We will explore how the two seemingly distinct themes—India’s architectural legacy and the transformative potential of purposeful space design—interconnect to shape our lives and communities.
Bharat’s Architectural Legacy
Our journey begins with a tribute to India’s architectural marvels, which continue to inspire awe and admiration. Raja Raja Chola’s Brihadeeswara Temple, a towering masterpiece in Thanjavur, stands as a symbol of Chola grandeur and engineering prowess. Meanwhile, Shivaji’s forts, scattered across the rugged terrains of Maharashtra, endure as testaments to Maratha valour and architectural ingenuity.
The transformation we seek is not merely cosmetic; it is rooted in purposeful space design that encompasses aesthetics, functionality, sustainability and inclusivity
The vast landscape of Bharat is filled with magnificent architectural creations – temples , forts, palaces – most of which have no parallel even today. While these historical structures represent the pinnacle of architectural aesthetics, they also underscore the fact that architecture transcends visual appeal. Space design goes deeper, influencing our physical health, mental well-being, and overall quality of life. The design of the external structure and the internal space both are important. We design our spaces and then the spaces design us. A closer look at these interconnected themes reveals the path to rejuvenating India’s urban landscapes.
The Mind-Body Connection
The mind-body connection is a profound aspect of space design. Just as the Brihadeeswara Temple’s symmetry and proportion evoke a sense of harmony, well-designed spaces can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.
Space design can impact our thoughts and feelings. The arrangement of spaces, use of natural light, and choice of materials in historical structures and modern buildings alike can foster a healthier connection between our mental and physical selves.
Space Design for Urban Revival
As we turn our attention to the drab look of urban India, we realise that space design holds the key to transformation. How did we – a civilisation with the most advanced and diverse architecture in ancient times become a nation whose cities are largely unimaginative blobs of concrete? Modern cities face challenges of congestion, haphazard development and a lack of cohesive planning. To counter these issues, we must harness the principles of purposeful and mindful space design to revitalise our urban landscapes.
I happened to see some of the Government buildings in Mumbai and Delhi, which were built decades ago. A more depressing set of spaces would be hard to find. Post-2014, perhaps they have just become cleaner. This is applicable to most residential apartments in urban India.
Pictures of the new Parliament building reveal that we are finally taking some steps towards mindful design that reflects our cultural identity and inspires the people who inhabit and visit the space. This is yet another vital contribution of PM Modi in transforming Bharat.
Incorporating elements of traditional architecture into modern urban planning bridges the gap between India’s architectural legacy and contemporary urban development. By designing buildings that draw inspiration from historical structures, utilising traditional materials and embracing architectural styles reflecting India’s diverse cultural heritage, we can create visually appealing and culturally significant urban spaces.
Conservation and Restoration: Preserving Heritage
Preservation plays a pivotal role in maintaining our architectural heritage. Initiatives to restore and maintain historical buildings, temples, and forts are not merely acts of preservation; they are investments in cultural identity and opportunities for tourism and cultural appreciation.
Connecting with Our Roots
Promoting awareness about India’s architectural heritage is vital. Educational institutions should incorporate architectural history into their curriculum, and heritage walks and workshops can help people connect with their roots. Understanding the historical significance of these structures fosters a deeper appreciation for their architectural and cultural value.
Sustainable Practices: A Holistic Approach
Modern urban planning should prioritise sustainability. By incorporating eco-friendly designs, renewable energy sources and green spaces, we can enhance the aesthetic appeal of cities while minimising their environmental impact. The sustainable practices of our architectural legacy can serve as inspiration for contemporary
Each region of Bharat has its own distinctive architecture and design. Amer Fort in Jaipur has a room with a mosaic of small mirrors placed aesthetically in such a way that one lamp placed in a certain location in the room can light up the space beautifully. Imagine the energy savings by employing such ideas adapted for modern living.
Celebrating Art and Craftsmanship Supporting traditional artisans and craftsmen is crucial for preserving our architectural legacy. Initiatives to promote traditional art and craftsmanship ensure that these skills are passed down through generations. By celebrating and preserving these traditions, we keep our cultural heritage alive.
Purposeful Space Design: A Unifying Vision
Purposeful space design and the celebration of India’s architectural legacy are not separate endeavours. They are two sides of the same coin and share a unifying vision of creating inspiring and nurturing environments that reflect our rich cultural heritage while meeting the needs of modern society.
Bharat’s architectural legacy is a testament to human creativity, profound wisdom, engineering prowess and cultural identity. Yet, as we look at the urban landscape of modern Bharat, we see a disconnect between our heritage and our contemporary surroundings. The transformation we seek is not merely cosmetic; it is rooted in purposeful space design that encompasses aesthetics, functionality, sustainability and inclusivity. Other nations do not have the legacy we have. It is therefore incumbent upon us to build on it and not just follow whatever is the current norm in building design.
It may not be economically and ecologically viable to tear down most buildings to rebuild them. We can make a start by at least transforming the interiors of offices, homes, schools, public buildings. It would benefit people enormously. This of course has to be done mindfully and with expertise. Some shifts may not even need too much expenditure. With colour, soft furnishings and cultural hints spaces can have a completely new purpose and impact.
By embracing our architectural legacy, preserving historical structures, and prioritising thoughtful urban planning, we can rejuvenate our cities and create environments that inspire, nurture, and enhance the quality of life for all. It is a matter of recognising the profound impact of space design and committing to a brighter future that builds on the wisdom of our glorious past. In doing so, we not only rejuvenate our urban landscapes but also ensure that our architectural legacy endures for generations to come.
For the complex and enormous challenges we face today we need every resource to inspire the people of Bharat to address them. Space design that draws on the wisdom of our rich architectural legacy can be our silent yet powerful and enduring ally.