25 April 2024

Modern Indian Architecture and the emergence
of a Post-Independence discourse:
The case of Design (1957-1988)

Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Respondent: Frederike Lausch, ETH

ABauhaus Network Wall, Gallery 3, Bauhaus Museum Dessau.
Design Cover, January 1958, vol. 2, No. 1. Cover Design credits: Chowdhury/Grewal. Photograph by Pappal Suneja (2019).

The Indian journal Design (1957-1988) began during political transitions with a growing consciousness of finding a new cultural identity. It covered debates on architecture, interior, landscape, furniture, textile, and industrial design. India tried to build a relationship between traditional & modern architecture and as a new democratic nation had the urge to showcase as well as to develop its new identity. A richly crafted discourse followed, which serves as an interesting example of an evolution of Indian modernity. Design developed these discourses as a much-needed reference that eventually shaped mid-20th-century Indian architecture and design. From its inception in 1957, Design differed from anything India had experienced in the field of architecture. It triggered an imaginative interpretation of tradition as for several millennia, different civilizations in India had left vivid testimony of the originality, vitality, and uniqueness of their artistic achievements. It was now up to the masses in post-independent India to keep that ‘tradition of creativity’ alive. In the past, India had created stupas, sculptures, architectural masterpieces, and entire cities, as well as written superb treatises on the concepts of aesthetics and beauty, and it was felt that the time had come to match and surpass these benchmarks.
As a part of my doctoral studies, I am investigating this historical case of critical communication in architecture and production of the built environment in India during the postcolonial decades. The project discusses the process in which history, theory, and critique are reflected in architecture concerning the institutions and actors that coincided at a point in time (1957–1988) within this journal. Design also reflects a convoluted alliance of culturally and historically manifested social linkages by influential architectural proponents and theorists as editorial members from across the world. The analysis of this cross-cultural networking of the experts involved allows the development of a deeper understanding of modern ‘Indian Architecture’.

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