Make your own free website on


What is "Indian architecture"?



Delhi in India

(Photo by Akhtar and Alka Badash)

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture

(Archnet Visual Archives, MIT)



I think that India has a very strong potential of achieving in a refreshed way the very particular contemporary identity of its architectural traditions.


Most over the world traditions are shattered by a globalizing and faceless modernism and any attempt to re-assess the features of an own regional or local cultural identity is a part of a conscious project of

reconstruction,-- encompassing the re-evaluation of historical heritage as a spiritual and symbolic anchor,--but also as a resource of practices and time-tested principles and models,-- not to forget its powerful evocative role within the popular and collective memory!



Lunuganga Estate, Sri Lanka (1984-Present)

(Photo by HélèneBinet)

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture


Geoffrey Bawa in Sri Lanka is rightly referred to as a pioneer because he did develop a New Architecture which is consistent both with the traditional typology, structural logics and imagery, the rationality of the vernacular architecture's climate and geography responsiveness, etc. as well as open to contemporary insights into new sustainable technologies and materials,

as well as lifestyles, and aspects of modern cultural life...


Bawa is both universal and so perfectly at ease in Sri Lanka in a perfect continuity and familiarity, enhancing and enriching his historic heritage rather than merely quoting from it, learning the best from Western modernities without getting blinded

by abstraction and rhetorical speculations on "Zeitgeist"...


Hassan Fathy is another role model in the context of "Re-Invention" of a traditional culturally rooted architecture. Both Bawa and Fathy are now referred to in Western culture as pioneers of New Traditional Methodologies


House Stoppelaere by Hassan Fathy

(Photo by Richard Little)

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture.


Blue Water Hotel by Geoffrey Bawa, Wadduwa, Sri Lanka

(Photo by Christian Richters)

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture


Both Geoffrey Bawa and Hassan Fathy have succeeded in avoiding a regressive and folkloric and provincial traditionalism, as well as a shallow internationalism, and have achieved a true contemporaneity by accepting both their "province" and the combined wisdom of past traditions and new knowledge!



It seems very clear that the world cannot be built according to a

single-minded, neutral, abstracted and reactionary type of Western modernism or deconstructivism. It is not only insane and humiliating to the

natural variety of mankind and the rich inventiveness of all vernacular and historical world cultures, but it is a profoundly anti-modern vision to reduce the cultural expression of our contemporary times... The most mechanical and random architectural and urban expressions of "geometrical fundamentalism" , "minimalist abstraction" or "deconstructive bricolage", all of them based on fallacious and authoritian axioms of cultural positivism, do not compare, nor to the potential of a real modernity, nor to the potential of the timeless principles of beauty, comfort and permanence of traditional cultures!


Shah Hamadan Mosque and Urban Fabric, Srinagar, India

(Photo y Rita Sampat)

The Aga Khan Award for Architecture)


India has an exuberant heritage of spiritual knowledge, mythology, wisdom, artistical and architecural precedents, spices, colours, traditions and experiences, and it is perfectly updated on the best modern cultural, scientifical and technological achievements... Indian Architecture can be and should be inspired by both. Let's keep in mind that India built already in the 3rd millenium B.C. among mankind's oldest cities within the Harappa civilization.

These antique cities were carefully laid out on a complex grid pattern, long before it was re-invented by Hippodamus of Milet in Classical Greece!In fact there there remains no philosophical or practical contradiction in developing a sophisticated and complex Indian architecture bridging both between the best of the past and the best of contemporary potentials, absorbing from Western inspiration what is worth and appropriate, and rejecting what is harmful and frivolous.



A New Town of Laketown, Maharashtra, India (2002)

by The HOK Planning Group


Interestingly now the American HOK Planning Group design and build New Traditional Cities in India. I believe this should be considered as an exemplary and catalysing experience, and not as another

form of globalizing cultural imperialism.


Lucien Steil

September 26, 2002

(Discussion Forum Archnet / MIT)