Friday, October 19, 2012

Concepts of Space in Traditional Indian Architecture

Text & Photography: Ar. Yatin Pandya

Attempting to understand the roots of ‘timelessness’ as a universal quality in architecture, Ar. Yatin Pandya excerpts the essence from his internationally acclaimed book of the same title, where he examines notions of time, space and existence in the Indian context; the research providing inroads to a universal footprint...

What makes historic architecture awe-inspiring?


Why is that even after centuries and millennia, despite functional obsolescence, these architecture masterpieces have remained vital?


What spatial qualities and organizational principles have rendered them timeless?


Can these qualities be deciphered and reinstated in contemporary times?


These questions become immensely pertinent in the context of India due to its rich heritage and long traditions.

Dictum 1 - Choices of movement path for personal and intuitive experience

In India, we live in three time zones simultaneously: moorings of the past and aspirations for the future combine with the realities of the present, making it alchemy of conditioning over millennia. The past continues as living traditions - relevant and valid to the present.

Dictum 2 - Disparate visual and physical axis

Dictum 3 - Indoors integrated with outdoors through landscaping and light

As the manifestation of an idea - architecture is a celebration of life. From philosophy and rituals to art forms and architecture, all are extensions of a way of life, echoing the underpinning notions of the Indian context. Any projections founded on the fundamental philosophical and ideological tenets of the place and people would therefore be sustainable and timeless.

Dictum 4 - Kinesthetics as the organizational and proportioning tool

History is a function of time and space. Material, construction, style and ‘isms’ are conditions of the context. Even form and scale are aspects of conditioned learning but the experience is eternal, human, universal and intuitive.

Dictum 5 - Layering for the sequential unfolding of spaces

Experimental richness and ability to identify with pluralistic value systems is the hall mark of timeless architecture. Traditional Indian Architecture has ably demonstrated the universality of its communication as well as its validity within multiple values systems. This is achieved essentially by relying on spatial experiences derived through narratives - dynamic perception of space while in motion - its ‘Kinesthetics’. The interactive process of encoding and decoding between the space and perceiver then becomes the key aspect of orchestrating spatial narratives.

Dictum 6 - Movement A key to conditioning of the mind

This research is an attempt at understanding the very roots of what constitutes the Indian context by examining its notions of time, space and existence. Deciphering their implications in the physical manifest, it unravels the inherent virtues of traditional Indian Architecture and interprets them as universal dictums, relevant to reinstate in contemporary times.

Dictum 7 - Semiotics as an associational overlay

Ar. Yatin Pandya is an author, activist, academician, researcher as well as a well-acclaimed successful practicing architect from Ahmedabad.  He has recently been awarded the prestigious IIA 2012 award in the research category for his work on ‘timeless appeal of architecture’.


  1. A worthy question indeed. Beautiful diagrams in the paper, and I quote 'Experimental richness and ability to identify with pluralistic value systems is the hall mark of timeless architecture.' I would add that awe is created in the observer due to the distance of time and relativity, and therefore a detachment is felt because the buildings are no longer used as they were originally intended. Also the rich decorative treatments, which grew out of certain religious beliefs, are no longer produced in today's architecture, and hence they remain as being unobtainable, and their preciousness increases. There is one exception to this and that is the work of John Outram, who in my opinion is the world's greatest living architect.
    In response to IAnD's discussion thread: What makes historic architecture awe-inspiring?

  2. Shahrizan Amir HamzahNovember 24, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    Of the diagrams shown, one that's missing is a sectional diagram. This diagram would reveal the vertical proportions and its experiential effects as the person walks through. From the pictures you can already see some nice vertical devices employed. I believe these devices would still bring the same experience even without the decorative treatments, though not as fetching.

    Few modern masters get to this level. Mr Sully's example is of a living architect. Mine are long gone. Carlo Scarpa (Brion Cemetery) is one, and Louis Kahn (too many for me to mention).
    In response to IAnD's discussion thread: What makes historic architecture awe-inspiring?

  3. Shahrizan Amir HamzahNovember 24, 2012 at 4:26 PM

    In my view, historical architecture attains this timeless quality due to the clarity in which it contains and defines rituals. Most historic buildings are either related, connected or influenced by the beliefs of the place/area. The clarity of the rituals and the values it tries to embody is so entwined in the design that we can appreciate it to this day. This is what makes buildings of antiquity so timeless.
    In response to IAnD's discussion thread: What makes historic architecture awe-inspiring?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...