Turning Delhi into a city of skyscrapers might seem to many the only way out of the city’s urban mess but international experts are horrified at the idea.
At a conference on new architecture and urbanism, organised by the International Network for Traditional Building, Architecture and Urbanism (INTBAU) in association with the Nabha Foundation, architects and planners warned India against adopting the “monstrous and inhuman” architecture of glass towers and skyscrapers.
Instead, it should evolve new architecture based on diverse traditional practices that have held good for centuries. “To create cities of the future we have to go back to our past,” the experts said.
Acclaimed urban theorist Leon Krier. a keynote speaker at the conference, said cities growing vertically today will become unlivable when there is no uranium to power turbines or fossil fuels for vehicles. Buildings and settlement that follow traditional ideas and allow human activities to be carried out in a pleasant, aesthetic and profound way, will endure, Krier said.
Krier, who is carrying out the Poundbury village project in Dorchester for Prince Charles, said the way out is to create attractive alternatives so that people can themselves tell the good from the bad and reject the bad.
Big glass towers with shanties below indicate a collapse of social and community structures that in turn lead to increased violence, Krier said. “No building should be more than three-storey high, the height that people can climb comfortably,” Krier said while talking of cities of the future.
Well-known architect and academician Prof AGK Menon also criticized the modern movement in architecture for failing to deliver on its promise. “India is fortunate enough that it still has a large resource pool of traditional craftspersons who can help to provide the strategy for our future buildings.
“We have to evolve modern architecture from our own traditions instead of westernising,” Menon said.
Chairman of INTBAU Robert Adam, who runs the largest architectural firm in Europe that specialises in traditional architecture and urban design, said the INTBAU has been founded to counteract the notion that tradition and modernity in architecture are opposed to each other. “We are dedicated to promoting a humane urban environment,” Adam said.
Uday Khemka of Nabha foundation said that the liberal capitalism typified by glass and glitz is a threat to the Gandhian vision for India and that the way we build our cities will determine whether Indian civilisation and culture survive into the next century.