Modern Building Construction and Planning in India

Modern Building Construction and Planning in India by Britishers

Question - It was the British who introduced modern building construction and planning in India. Discuss.

– 1757 was considered as the beginning of British era in India although most of the country was yet under the rule of various princes. For a complete establishment of the East India Company in India, it would take another hundred years.

– As a colonial power, Britain obviously ruled India for its own benefit. In order to properly rule it they had to deal with the usual issues of urban governance, such as control of space, provision of water, sewerage, roads, street lighting and law and order. In the first few years of ruling, Britain tended to view the problems of India through the lens of Britain's problems.

– The problems arising from the rapid industrialization, urbanization were, however, quite different giving rise to different policies in different regions.

– Nevertheless, British planning left India legacies in form of urban architecture, physical planning, and the administrative mechanisms of governance.

– Prior to the arrival of British, architecture in India was from a social point of view representing grandeur and royalty.

– This view though shifted focus to house organizations and every other thing required in order to control an empire as big as India. Government buildings were erected and new cities developed.

– The British colonialists in India were evolving from traders to rulers and so felt the need to be viewed as powerful. The British buildings of Calcutta and Madras and Bombay boasted of British superiority. The most significant architectural phenomenon in India was the building of Imperial Delhi.

– Secular architecture largely comprised of the military needs of the East India Company. Thus structures like barracks, forts, mess etc were built on a large scale. However, this was not sufficient in order to assert British dominance; something more authoritative or dominating was needed. This gave rise to Government Houses and Town Halls.

– As the British influenced increased it led to traditional architecture becoming more eclectic in its preference of sources. The diverging of British architecture, which was primarily associated with power and influence was the fundamental step for its factors to be related with the architecture of native patrons which included Hindus and Muslims.

– Fort St. George is considered to be the first establishment of the British in India. Fort William is another piece of British architecture. Principles of urban design were experimented in Calcutta. The Madras Government Hall and the Bombay Town Hall were some of the early examples of colonial architecture.

– Victoria Terminus is an prominent example of Victorian Gothic Architectural Revival in India and was built over 10 years. Some more masterpieces to be included are: Public Works Secretariat, High Court, headquarters of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, General Post Office and Victoria Memorial in Calcutta, High Court etc.


• Lutyen was the British architect who was instrumental in shaping the architecture of Delhi.
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