importing Indian vernacular architecture

Isaac Mathew
4 min readMay 24, 2022

Trends govern which design gets its time in the lights. For now, it is regional design. To trace a getting there, it begins with diversity. Diversity leads to decolonization discourse which gives us in part #southasian #indianarchitecture and that drift leads to vernacular #architecture. All our contemporary building references and technology we have imported from the west. It was not forced upon us but we decided that is the modernity we wanted. Evil, it is not. Vernacular is everything that theories on western architecture couldn’t encompass within the resources of a time. Ideally, local practices should have done something about it but that hasn’t happened on our land almost 75years after independence. We got drawn into postmodernism, critical regionalism specifically. Broadly though what is vernacular is cloaked through a western lens. There is also confusion between regional and vernacular building practices. Everything beyond modern contemporary is divided into either monuments or non-professional construction activity which as a premise is questionable. Importing of ideas is problematized. When Corbusier and Kahn built here they contextualized the mandates of the environments they had access to. As a result their buildings still work. It’s not the materials or the technology themselves but the intelligence of implementation that has spewed out ugly buildings for #indian urban landscapes. Blaming the west is also a trend of the times. We need to come to terms that all of our past is not indigenous at times of prosperity we did import luxuries from elsewhere. Chettinad palaces is a worthy case study to address practices of a time when a community successfully adopted western concepts within a local regional framework. Limiting conversations on spatial practices to momentary anxieties of capital is a lost opportunity for anxieties of capital. Colonial architecture too mixed best practices and produced some incredible spatial solutions. Though the vernacular is a consolidated knowledge framework, solutions generated from a better understanding of the context are a preferable alternative to just using local materials. The environment and cultural aspirations of a place can generate newer vernaculars as seen in our past.

a present we imported
possibilities for a future

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Isaac Mathew

i think #architecture #art #planning #design #engineering