Depressing view of India

There is a very downbeat interview with Indian architect Charles Correa published by AFP, in which the great humanitarian architect bemoans the rapid growth of towers in Indian cities which he describes as ‘the kind of cloned building that used to be done by Stalin and the Russians or in the Bronx that people just hate and dread’.

The problem seems to be twofold – on the one hand the determined selling of ‘modernity’ to people who are learning to associate ‘traditional’ building with the old fashioned, with slums and with something to be shunned. The other is the sheer pace of construction, as the country urbanises so rapidly.

Sensitive, intelligent architecture is by definition relatively slow. It takes time to understand the demands of place and people and context. It is much faster to throw up clusters of identikit towers which are of course dependent on cheapish energy and good servicing to keep their lifts and air conditioning operating.

Correa’s proposed solution is to encourage the growth of small and medium sized towns rather than herding everybody into megacities. An interesting idea, though we know that cities grow to meet demand, it is really hard to plan them and make people come.

In contrast, a feature in this month’s Architectural Review looks at a brickwork house in Delhi’s Defence Colony that provides an alternative to the relentless bling of much luxury housing. It is an interesting project but one wonders just how much difference a single house can make. (Non subscribers to the AR can see this project and others on the architect’s website).







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