Buildings in India, Contemporary architecture in India, India, India architecture, Indian architecture, Indian Independence Day

10 contemporary structures across India that celebrate the country’s various identities

In celebration of India’s Independence Day from the British Empire on 15 August 1947, we are putting together a gallery of ten contemporary buildings that have shaped India’s architectural landscape, from residential buildings to giant institutions and public buildings.

Contemporary architecture is becoming more prominent across the country, from the larger, urban cities to smaller, rural areas. In recent news, British architect David Chipperfield had unveiled his design for a museum located in Agra, India which is currently under construction next to the world renown Taj Mahal.

Additionally, a series of stacked villas with sky gardens have been designed by architectural studio Penda for the Indian city of Hyderabad.

Here is a list of 10 contemporary architectural projects in India: 

1. Lotus Temple, New Delhi

The Lotus Temple designed by Iranian-American architect Fariborz Sahba is located in New Delhi and is a Bahá’í House of Worship that was completed in 1986. The building is notable for its flower-like shape and serves as the Mother Temple of the Indian subcontinent.

The building is composed of 27 free-standing marble-clad ‘petals’ arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides, with nine doors opening onto a central hall with height of slightly over 40 metre and a capacity of 2,500 people.

The surface of the House of Worship is made of white marble. It features nine surrounding ponds and gardens, with the overall property comprising 26 acres.

2. Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur, Rajasthan.

© Charles Correa Associates

The Jawahar Kala Kendra is a multi-arts centre located in Jaipur and designed by award-winning Indian architect Charles Correa in 1986. The building was completed in 1991 and commissioned by the  Rajasthan government with the purpose of preserving Rajasthani arts and crafts.

The centre is made up of eight blocks housing museums, an amphitheatre, an auditorium, library, arts rooms, a cafeteria, a small hostel and an art-studio. It also includes two permanent art galleries.

The architectural plan is inspired by the original city plan of Jaipur, consisting of nine squares with an open central square. It  applies concepts from ancient architectural principles called the Vastu Vidya.

3. The British Council, Delhi 

© Charles Correa Associates

Also designed by Charles Correa, The British Council building in Delhi expresses the three basic cultural identities that have shaped contemporary India. To represent this, Correa created a series of three courtyards that symbolise the three focal points that stand for the world centre in Hindu, Muslim and European cultures.

The main facade depicts a mural by Howard Hodgkins, made of white makrana marble and black cuddapah stone.

4. The Light Box Restroom, Mumbai 

Courtesy of Rohan Chavan

The light box restroom designed by Indian architect Rohan Chavan is a restroom for women containing toilet blocks, as well as acting as a typical social space for women to interact.

The design has been conceptualised around a tree to integrate nature and the built environment as well as a means of protecting against India’s hotter climate, with a transparent cover protecting the structure from rain.

The structure is made up of four blocks, one end containing two toilets with a common washbasin and the other end has a nursing room and a handicapped toilet as well as one for senior citizens. The center of the restroom is a garden measuring that is used for various activities such as rest, a free gallery to display art for amateur artists, a place for lectures and awareness campaigns, celebrating festivals, seasonal activities and events.

5. Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai

Photo: Robert Polidori © Mumbai International Airport Pvt. Ltd.

Designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport is inspired by the form of traditional Indian pavilions. The four-story terminal stacks a grand “headhouse,” or central processing podium, on top of highly adaptable and modular concourses below. Rather than compartmentalising terminal functions, all concourses radiate outwards from a central processing core and are therefore easily reconfigured to “swing” between serving domestic flights or international flights.

As well as celebrating a new global, high-tech identity for Mumbai, the structure is imbued with responses to the local setting, history, and culture. Gracious curbside drop-off zones designed for large parties of accompanying well-wishers accommodate traditional Indian arrival and departure ceremonies.

Regional patterns and textures are subtly integrated into the terminal’s architecture at all scales. From the articulated coffered treatment on the headhouse columns and roof surfaces to the intricate jali window screens that filter dappled light into the concourses, Terminal 2 demonstrates the potential for a modern airport to view tradition anew.

6. Pearl Academy of Fashion, Jaipur

The Pearl Academy of Fashion designed by Indian architecture firm Morphogenesis fuses old-school building techniques with modern design, as well as implementing energy efficiency as its core principle.

The architects developed two passive-cooling control methods to keep workspaces and courtyards cool. The entire building is elevated off the ground, sucking air in around the edges of the building which is eventually released up through the open-air courtyards. A large stepped well at the centre of the building also plays a role in lowering the temperatures as it enters under the belly of the building. Fed by recycled water from the on-site sewage treatment plant, the well creates a cooler microclimate through evaporation.

 The second control method is the use of a traditional Rajasthani architectural motif calledthe ‘jaali’ (or jali), which is a stone screen. In this particular building, the screen is used as a thermal skin between the building and the surroundings. A 4-foot gap between the screen and outdoor wall of the classrooms reduces direct heat gain. Drip channels on the inside of the screen also provide more evaporative cooling. The traditional building technique was modernized as computer models were used to determine the optimum density of screen patterning to provide the maximum cooling.

The building incorporates local stone and mosaic tiles with the inner, amorphous-shaped courtyards providing ample daylight to classrooms and studio spaces, reducing the need for artificial light.

7. House on Pali Hill, Mumbai

© Helene Binet

Designed by Studio Mumbai, the project was built by stripping down an existing house, exposing its concrete frame to the surrounding trees. It sits sits protected inside layers of glass, wooden screens, planted trellises and curtains providing grades of privacy and enclosure within the urban environment.

The entrance gallery leads to a double height living space that opens out onto a timber deck and a public garden. A polished limestone floor gently reflects the landscape while pigmented lime plaster walls softly absorb light. The house is made up of a series of floating staircases.

India has some of the world’s lushest landscapes, and the architects used this factor of the Indian landscape to shape the design of this house on Pali Hill.

8. The Park Hotel, Hyderabad 

Being the first LEED Gold certified hotel in India, The Park Hotel Hyderabad was designed by SOM, offering a 270-room hotel. Its modern and sustainable design combines local craft traditions, and is influenced by the region’s reputation as a centre for the design and production of gemstones and textiles.

“This building signals our commitment to creating a design that simultaneously felt at home among the exuberant vernacular architecture of Hyderabad, while simultaneously incorporating the latest sustainable strategies and technologies,” said Roger Duffy, SOM’s Partner in Charge of the project.

The shape of the facade’s openings, as well as the three-dimensional patterns on the screens themselves, were inspired by the forms of the metalwork of the crown jewels of the Nizam, the city’s historic ruling dynasty.

9. KYMF clinic, Bangalore 

Photography Bangalore Dialysis Center Cadence Architects

Cadence Architects built a 30 bed dialysis centre in Banglaore, adjacent to the ancient South Indian Temple, revered by the neighbourhood for its architectural presence and religious value.

“The context in that sense was atypical of a generic urban setting. The position that we took was to make a sensitive intervention into the context, we looked at the building as a backdrop to the existing scenario with the temple as the main protagonist,” said the architects.

The building façade is formulated by surfaces built out of brick. The slivers between the bellowing shells allow light to permeate into the building only to create a spatial and visual feel that is as divine as the temple outside.

10. Capitol Complex, Chandigarh

Palace of Assembly. Photography Benjamin Hosking

Although this project doesn’t fall under “contemporary architecture”, we couldn’t resist adding Le Corbusier’s Capitol Complex in Chandigarh, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is made up of three concrete buildings: the Palace of Assembly or Legislative Assembly, the Secretariat and the High Court. Chandigarh was one of India’s first planned cities, and was Le Corbusier’s largest project, who commissioned to design the masterplan in the early 1950s, after being approved by Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister.

The Secretariat is the largest of the structures, and houses the headquarters of both the Punjab and Haryana governments. It is  250 metres long and comprises eight storeys of rough-cast concrete.

The concrete was moulded into different forms to create complex geometry and patterns, which are highlighted in the paintwork.

The Palace of Assembly was designed to have an open-plan interior, framed by a grid of reinforced concrete columns, offering a view of the nearby Himalayan mountains.