The colonisation of India had a great impact on its architecture as well. Let’s trace the development and important elements of colonial architecture in India. Read here to know more about it.
Like all other aspects of society, the colonization of India also had a great impact on architecture. Colonization marked a new chapter in Indian architecture. Though the Dutch, the Portuguese and the French made their presence felt through their buildings but it was the English who had a lasting impact on architecture of India. Colonial architecture plays an important role in making of Indian history.
In the beginning of the colonial rule there were attempts at creating authority through classical prototypes. In its later phase the colonial architecture culminated into what is called the Indo-Saracenic architecture.
Colonial Architecture – European Influences
India had a great history of Architecture. The arrival of Europeans to India further enriched the architectural traditions of our country. It saw the synthesis of the indigenous architectural traditions of India with the European architectural styles.
The colonial architecture exhibited itself through institutional, civic and utilitarian buildings such as post offices, railway stations, rest houses and government buildings.
Portuguese Architecture in India:
- Portuguese established impressive churches in Iberian style of architecture (for ex. churches of Goa. Francis Church at Cochin (1510) is believed to be the first church built by the Europeans in India.
- Portuguese used bricks as the main building material along with wooden roofs & stairs.
- Many of the early architecture of the Portuguese are manifested in churches, cathedrals and schools. These churches were built in the Iberian style.
- Western India, especially Goa and Daman and Diu have seen the maximum influence of Portuguese colonization.
- They began by constructing trading terminals and warehouses along the coasts, which were subsequently transformed into fortified cities.
- They also imported the notion of ‘patio homes’ and the ‘Baroque style,’ which were established in Europe in the late 16th century to symbolize the Church’s strength.
- To produce a dramatic impact, it featured an extensive, complex, and theatrical design. It necessitated the employment of clashing colours.
- Some of the prominent construction of this period includes:
- The Sé Cathedral in Goa, with its three stories and baroque style reminds one of the late Renaissance architecture, which was built in 1619 AD, is one of the most prominent structures. It was constructed in the late-Gothic Portuguese style. It contains a big bell that is known as the “Golden Bell.
- Basilica of Bom Jesus, Goa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was finished in 1604 AD in the Baroque style. It houses the relics of St. Francis Xavier.
- St. Paul’s Church in Diu was finished in 1610 AD and is built in the Baroque style.
- On the shore of Diu island, Diu Fort was erected in 1535 AD. There is a lighthouse on the fort’s walls, as well as canons. Within the fort complex, there are three churches: St. Thomas Church, St. Paul’s Church, and the Church of St. Francis of Assisi.
- Talaulim’s St. Anne’s Church (Goa) was created in the Baroque style and completed in 1695 AD.
- Other famous Portuguese monuments in India: The Bandel Church in West Bengal on the banks of the River Hooghly. In Mumbai, the Madh Fort, Castella de Aguada and St. John’s Baptist Church are structures that remain from the Portuguese colonial rule.
French architecture in India:
- The Parisian architectural styles can be seen in various places in India
- The French architecture made use of local raw materials and took into account the climatic conditions of the place
- French shutter windows, carvings on archways and narrow street fronts were the French style
- Monuments of this style can be seen in Puducherry, Bengal, Karaikal, Mahe etc
- French grid patterns, clear sectors and perpendicular streets are the three distinct features that comprise the plan of the French towns
- Some of the noted buildings and monuments bearing French style include statue of Joan of Arc at Dumas street; ‘Le Café’; Mairie building that presently houses the Puducherry Municipality; the French consulate building; ‘Le Foyer du Soldat’, a legion hall for veteran soldiers.
- The French brought with them the notion of urban city planning.
- The Cartesian grid layouts and scientific architectural designs were used to build the French colonies of Puducherry and Chandernagore (now Chandannagar, West Bengal).
- As a display of authority, they constructed massive structures.
- They also established the notion of faceless architecture, which is characterized by a basic facade devoid of embellishment or design, similar to modern structures.
- The coastal cities of Mahe (Kerala), Karaikal (Tamil Nadu), and Yanam were also established by the French (Andhra Pradesh).
- Puducherry’s Sacred Heart Church and Chandannagar’s Sacred Heart Church are two examples.
British Architecture in India:
- British followed various architectural styles viz. Gothic, Imperial, Christian, Palladian and Victorian being prominent.
- Britishers used Red sandstone & coarse limestone as the main building material.
- The Palladian style was sought to be introduced by the British officer in the 18th century. The famous example of a building of this style is, Constantia, which was erected by general martin at Lucknow
- In the 19th century, there grew a movement to combine the best elements from India and Western architecture. The pioneer of this movement was, FS Growse. The museum at Jaipur and the Moor Market in Chennai are examples of this form of architecture
- Sardar Ram Singh, a master builder of Punjab, designed the Central Museum and the Senate House at Lahore (in Pakistan)
- Wittet designed the Gateway of India in Mumbai, borrowing several elements of Mughal style
- The Victoria terminus station in Mumbai is an example of Victorian Gothic revival architecture in India, deriving themes from Indian traditional architecture. It was designed by FW Stevens
- The Gothic style of building was introduced by the British which fused with Indian architecture to create the Indo-Gothic architectural style.
- After 1911, a new architectural style called as Neo-Roman architecture evolved.
Indo-Gothic Style/Victorian style:
- It is also known as the Victorian style; it was a unique combination of Indian, Persian, and Gothic architectural elements.
- The following are some of the characteristics of the Indo-Gothic style:
- The structures were extraordinarily huge and intricately constructed.
- The arches were pointed, unlike the curved arches of the Indo-Islamic era.
- One of the distinguishing elements of the Victorian design was the use of wide windows.
- It followed sophisticated structural engineering requirements in Britain and featured a crucified ground design.
- Steel, iron, and poured concrete became popular.
- Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, Gateway of India in Mumbai, and so on are some examples.
- Following World War I, the British Raj built in the Neo-Roman or Neo-Classical styles.
- The best examples of this style were the buildings of New Delhi, designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker.
- It is commonly referred to as the “Rome of Hindustan.”
- This phase contains the following characteristics:
- The structures were unremarkable and without any distinguishing traits.
- It was a mash-up of all architectural styles, resulting in a style that was crowded and limited the area for creative expression.
- Because of the composite character of the buildings, simplicity, modernism, and usability were severely harmed.
- A special emphasis was placed on circular structures.
- The usage of eastern themes to realize western architectural styles was overdone.
- During this time, the notion of an upturned dome was developed, as seen on the top of the Supreme Court and Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Read: Gothic Architecture
At the end of the Victorian era, India entered the era of national awakening and movement. The architecture represented the character of the time, a combination of imperial and national urges. It was this urge that led to the movement of Indo-Saracenic. This movement drew elements from the indigenous and Indo-Islamic architecture and combined it with the Gothic revival and Neo-classical styles favored in Victorian England.
Salient features of this form of architectural style are:
- This is one of the most characteristic feature of Indo-Saracenic buildings
- The Bulbous dome is a hemispherical structure evolved from arch, usually forming a ceiling or roof.
- The Dome is considered as a symbolic representation of the vault of the heaven
- Some of the examples with Bulbous Domes are Egmore Railway Station, Chennai Museum
Overhanging eaves (Chhajja):
- It is a protruding structure which provides protection for the lower walls
- This feature was common in Mughal architecture. Ex: Tomb of Salim Chishti, Fatepur Sikri, India
- This feature became part of the Indo-Saracenic architecture during 19th and 20th Ex: Chhatrapathi Shivaji Terminus, Rashtrapati Bhavan
- Vaulted Roofs are ceilings with intersecting arches.
- These roofs can be seen in mausoleum which was built during the Islamic period.
- However, this feature was adopted by the British into the monuments they built during their time in Ex: St.Matthias’ Church, Chennai.
- Chhatris are an elevated, dome-shaped pavilions used as an element in Indian architecture.
- The word chhatri is also refer to the small pavilions that mark the corners, roof of entrance of a major building
- These pavilions are purely decorative and have no utility, but they are a classic folly which represents the status and wealth. Ex: Tomb of Humayun
- This feature can also be found in Indo-Saracenic style. Ex: Rashtrapati Bhavan.
- It is a tall spire with a conical or onion-shaped crown.
- Minarets are either free-standing or taller than associated support
- The basic form of a minaret includes a base, shaft, and gallery
- In Chennai, the Senate house is the best example of Indo-Saracenic architecture with Minarets.
- Pavilion refers to the subsidiary building that is positioned separately or as an attachment to a main building.
- Palaces or other large houses may have one or more subsidiary pavilions that are either freestanding or connected by covered walkways in the buildings of Mughal architecture.
- These pavilions can be found in the forts, palaces of British architecture in Indo-Saracenic style.
- The cusp in architecture is the intersections of lobed or scalloped forms, particularly in arches (cusped arches) and tracery (ornamental stone work)
- The monumental cusped arch had become the standard Mughal style component by the end of 17th Century
- The British builders also used the cusped shape arch universally and frequently enriched it with representations of leaves, flowers, or even human heads at the tip. Ex: Chennai corporation building, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Chhatrapathi Shivaji Terminus
Architecture in the Post-Independence Era
- Following 1947, two architectural schools emerged: Revivalist and Modernist.
- Both schools, however, were unable to shake the colonial hangover. As a result, the quality of India’s architectural traditions has deteriorated.
- For example, the Punjab government commissioned a French architect, Le Corbusier, to construct Chandigarh.
Difference Between Iberian and Gothic Architecture of Colonial Architecture
The Portuguese employed brick as their primary building material. Roofs and stairwells were made of wood.
The most common materials utilized were red sandstone and coarse limestone.
The Portuguese maintained their western customs and did not make any structural changes.
The Indo-Gothic style of architecture arose from the British adoption of Indian elements and forms.
Major Colonial Architecture monuments built by various colonial empires
Victoria Terminus Station (Chhatrapati Shivaji station), Mumbai
- Designed by the British architect F. W. Stevens, the structure became the symbol of Bombay
- Based on late medieval Italian models, the terminal was built over 10 years, starting in 1878
- An outstanding example of Victorian Gothic revival architecture in India
- Blended with themes deriving from Indian traditional architecture
- Bombay city was labelled as the ‘Gothic City’
Victoria Memorial Hall (Kolkata)
- Designed by William Emerson in late 19th century
- To perpetuate the memory of Queen Victoria in India
- Drew elements from the indigenous & Indo-Islamic architecture combined with the Gothic revival & Neo-Classical styles
Revival of Delhi
- 1911 → Transfer of capital from Calcutta (now Kolkata) to Delhi
- Sir Edward Lutyens was made responsible for the overall plan of Delhi
- He constructed India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhawan (Vice Regal Place)
- Vice regal palace appeared with a huge dome on the lines of a Buddhist stupa,
- Represent some elements of Hindu ornamentation & Islamic symmetry
- Herbert Baker added South Block and North Block, which flank the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
- Englishman Robert Tor Tussell built the Connaught Place.
Some Famous Colonial Architects of Modern India
- Laurie Baker, sometimes known as the “Architect of the Poor,” was the driving force behind Kerala’s revolutionary mass housing design.
- He was nominated for the Pritzker Prize, also known as the Nobel Prize for Architecture, in 2006.
- His architectural style includes the following features:
- Construction of environmentally friendly buildings using locally available materials.
- Introduction of the concept of filler slab construction to reduce steel and cement consumption.
- Emphasis on ventilation and thermal comfort arrangements.
- He is renowned as “Indian Architecture’s Conscience Keeper” and “Gandhi of Indian Architecture.”
- He was a German Architect and was commissioned with instructions to stay clear of elements of British or Mughal Architecture.
- Heinz used local materials like red sand stone and lime which were easily available.
- Prominent Feature is Red sandstone buildings with white domes, with big courtyards and windows.
- Architecture by him is known as modern style of architecture as it resembles today’s style buildings.
- He was a French Architect.
- He designed the city of Chandigarh on the pattern of well-ordered matrix.
- He conceived the Idea of sector as self-sufficient green belt.
- Designed regular grid system for fast moving traffic.
- He was a Goan Architect & played pivotal role past independence.
- He placed special emphasis on prevailing resources, energy and climate as major determinants in the ordering of space.
- He did pioneer work in urban issues and low cost shelter in the third world.
- Example: Planning of Navi Mumbai, Kanchenjunga apartment, Mumbai, British Council building, New Delhi, etc.
- He is well-known for his work in urban design and planning.
- He used contemporary architectural concepts to meet local needs and sensitivities.
- He designed the Madhya Pradesh Assembly Building, the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Museum in Ahmedabad, and the LIC Building in New Delhi’s Connaught Place.
- In 2006, he received the Padma Vibhusan award.
- As a result, we can observe that art and architecture have had a distinctive expression in the lives and leisure of the people of India from prehistoric times.
- Greeks, Arabs, Persians, and Europeans all added to the existing traditions in their own unique ways, resulting in the magnificent potpourri of Indian art and architecture.
- Natural and alternative materials such as bamboo, wood, stone, brick, mud, and clay are increasingly being used in modern Indian construction.
- ‘Contemporary Indian sensibility’ is a broad category that encompasses the work of young architects in India.
Article written by Aseem Muhammed