A comprehensive book covering the eclectic range of traditional residential architecture of India, profusely illustrated with nearly 1600 full color illustrations in 540 pages. It is a visual tour de force of the great building and craft skills of India and covers the vast gamut of vernacular building styles from all regions of the country. The photographs illustrate the overall views, details and construction techniques as well as the surface decoration of these marvellous structures – from smaller dwellings to grand edifices.
Vernacular architecture can best be defined as indigenous architecture of a people or locale, based on social and environmental needs and preferences, and made from locally available building material with available skills. Vernacular architecture is essentially ‘architecture without architects’ as there were no formal architects earlier in India but mainly artisan guilds and master masons. Though smaller in scale than the much larger monumental buildings, vernacular residential structures share some common building elements with them, influenced by inputs from conquering dynasties and colonial rulers.
India’s diversity of people is correspondingly matched by a great range in its vernacular architecture – urban, rural, tribal huts and other shelters – influenced by different religious, social and climatic requirements, as well as made according to locally available building material. A vast compendium of architecture design thus exists in India – that of traditional residential architecture, whether of the near past or earlier historical periods. It is, however, virtually untapped and fast disappearing. These fabulously varied vernacular residences of India have hardly been commented upon, leave alone recorded and evaluated for elements that are relevant even today. The features of the best courtyard houses are similar to the palaces of India. Unlike palaces, however, the courtyard house remained an indigenous form, though some admixture of styles did take place, either consciously or because of artisans belonging to different communities.
Indigenous styles provide sustainable and appropriate solutions for housing and blend with their surroundings. Their scale as well as character is in tune with local topography and the materials used (stone, bricks, mud, wood, bamboo and thatch) are local and easily merge with the surroundings. The spaces are functional according to the local ethos, cultural values, customs and beliefs of the community and there is repetition of these basic design units to create architectural harmony. The complete range of architectural vocabulary can be found in vernacular architecture, from Hindu trabeate to Islamic arcuate, with corresponding decorative aspects drawn from local craft traditions, according to the local communities and their skills.
Vernacular structures are great design resources for cost-effective appropriate technologies even today – their basic plans, living spaces and circulation paths, light and heat entry points during different times of the day and seasons (thus keeping the building cool in summer and warm in winters) – based on local skills.
The objective of this work is to bring out reference material on vernacular residences for the whole of India, visually analysing the best examples of such traditional residential architecture in the country. The photographs taken by the author and used in this book date from the nineteen-seventies onwards and use has also been made of some historical black and white photographs from the collections of the Anthropological Survey of India. By and large, no relevant or interesting traditional residence, vernacular style, structure or construction technique that deserves to be covered has been left out and different styles within the same state have been covered. A fascinating book for architects and general readers alike!
Contents: Introduction, 1. Vernacular Form, Design, Spaces and Relevance 2. Vernacular Architecture inb History and Heritage Sites 3. Khanabadosh and Nomad Camps 4. Himalayas and the Hills: Kashmir, Ladakh, Zanskar, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim 5. Northern Indian Plains: Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh 6. Western and Central India: Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh 7. Southern India: Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Puducherry 8. Eastern and North-East India: Odisha, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland 9. The Islands: Andamans, Nicobar and Lakshadweep 10. Earlier Efforts to Revive Indigenous Architecture 12. Living Traditions and the Future of Vernacular Architecture 13. The Bungalow and Colonial Influences, Bibliography and Web References