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“India” is a word that invokes a host of clichés: a timeless civilization of living traditions, great spiritual wisdom and artistic riches; a subcontinent of astonishingly diverse yet harmonious regional, religious, and linguistic differences; a crucible of cultural synthesis. The idea of “Modern India” invokes rather more equivocal clichés: a world of contrasts and contradictions, rich and poor, extravagance and destitution, space-age know-how but medieval means. The role that modern architecture and planning played in the early nation-building efforts of India, following its independence in 1947, has been widely regarded as an archetype of the internationalization of modernism in the mid-twentieth century. Yet the experience of modernity in the architectural history of India is a much longer and richer story.
Peter Scriver and Amit Srivastava relate how it began, due to a rethinking of design practices under colonial patronage in the early twentieth century, which directly challenged the building traditions of the 19th century. This is the first study to examine both the colonial and the postcolonial aspects of the story, and the authors draw on a broad range of primary sources, including private papers and photographic collections, and the extensive records of the Indian Public Works Department system, to provide a more fully-rounded and considered account than has previously been offered.
Going back to the nineteenth century, Scriver and Srivastava look at the beginnings of modernism in colonial India and the ways that public works and patronage fostered new design practices that directly challenged the social order and values invested in the building traditions of the past. They then trace how India?s architecture embodies the dramatic shifts in Indian society and culture during the last century. Making sense of a broad range of sources, from private papers and photographic collections to the extensive records of the Indian Public Works Department, they provide the most rounded account of modern architecture in India that has yet been available.