Glory of Colonial Architecture
It not only has inspired India’s many architectural marvels, but us too, at Isprava
Any mention of Indian history would be incomplete without talking about the impact of colonization on our nation. Be it the country’s melting pot of cultures or its distinct architectural patterns that differ from city to city, there is an imprint left behind by colonization that speaks of a quiet beauty that undoubtedly, brings back bittersweet memories.
Think of all those history lessons in school and you will remember – India was colonized by three different groups – the British, the Portuguese and the French. All of them have made their presence felt, leaving it behind like a thick stamp to last for a lifetime. Following a quirky mix of architectural patterns from their homeland, these three groups brought in their design sensibilities to create civic and utilitarian buildings like post offices, government buildings, railway stations and the like, in India.
Kolkata for example, was the capital of the British Raj and structures like the Raj Bhavan to this day echo the British style of architecture beautifully. At a particular point in time, it was even referred to as India’s own mini version of England. This was because a lot of business houses and banks in the city were being rebuilt along the British style of design. Streets like Chowringhee road and Harrison road were becoming home to elaborate, tastefully designed commercial buildings.
The glory of colonial architecture lies in its ability to match and merge, bringing refreshing new styles and designs to a whole new city or a whole new country. The angular brick work, fascinatingly symmetrical windows and beautiful arches or turrets lend the entire structure with an air of nobility. This allows you to take a stroll down different lanes in different cities and experience varied architectural styles at one go. Impressive much? Today, when you gaze up at the regal lines of Delhi’s Sansad Bhavan or the stunning façade of Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, you will hear whispers of the years gone by and of the silent, solid monuments that actually speak volumes. In a nutshell, colonial architecture has had a visibly deep and powerful impact on India. While plenty of architects today are choosing to go contemporary with their design, it is this ageold style that will always be considered to be far more durable and, needless to say, timeless.
THE BRITISH INFLUENCE
An era that began in 1615 and ended in 1947. An era that was the inspiration for a number of cult films, great literature and theatre. An era that is spoken about even today, having left its mark on the hearts of Indians across the world. And so, it must be said that out of all the groups, it was the British who had an extremely strong influence on Indian architecture. Think of their architecture as magnificent, with sweeping, intricate arches and colossal structures. The classic prototype of British architecture though, soon made way for a new style – the Indo-Saracenic. It was an artful mix of Gothic revival, Neo-Classical, Indo-Islamic and Indian architectural elements and a lot of churches and commercial buildings began to be designed in this way in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Agra, Chennai, Hyderabad and more. Witness this influence today in Chennai’s Chepauk Palace, the first Indo-Saracenic building, the Bombay High Court, Kolkata’s Victoria Memorial and the popular Crawford Market in Mumbai, to name a few. Stand back, pause and immerse yourself in decades worth of history.
The glory of colonial archiTecTure lies in iTs abiliTy To maTch and merge, bringing refreshing neW sTyles and designs To a Whole neW ciTy or a Whole neW counTry.
THE FRENCH INFLUENCE
Warm colours, an open design and breezy verandas characterize the French colonial style of architecture in India. The French East India Company was founded in 1664 and that was where it all began. Nowhere is the French influence more predominant than in beautiful Pondicherry. Colonized by the French, the town remained under their control until as late as 1954. Be it neat, perpendicular streets or attractive, wide French doors and grills, this architectural design style can definitely be summed up as quaint and endlessly charming. Imprints of French colonial architecture can be seen in the town’s international port, its banks and even its police stations. Some noteworthy structures here would be the Mairie building which houses the Puducherry Municipality, Lycée Français de Pondicherry, Asia’s oldest French international school and the impressive statue of Joan of Arc at Dumas street. Pondicherry is a living, breathing example of colonial architecture in all its glory.