Friday, October 26, 2007

Gothic Bombay

Bombay grew as an urban centre under the direction of the British who brought their aesthetic values with them from ‘home’. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, they experimented with the neo-Classical style of architecture, but then, suddenly, the city charted a new course that reflected contemporary European fashions. Gothic architecture of the medieval ages became high fashion, admired for its human scale and the manual construction techniques its appearance evoked.Gothic style buildings express their purpose quite directly on their exterior form. So, vertically, articulated by externally perceptible staircases, large open halls, functional areas, or visible methods of managing load, is observable on the outside of these buildings. This legibility of function is a hallmark of the Gothic.The Classical aesthetic strives to achieve restfulness with an orderly monochromatic presence, whereas the Gothic style is expressive, disturbing and disjointed with lively coloured surfaces. Flying buttresses, lancet windows and stained glass are noteworthy features of such architecture, and its buildings are often embellished with carved and narrative elements.The various Gothic styles employed in Bombay do relate both in appearance and in practice with contemporary structures in Britain. Magazines, photographs and the ease and frequency of travel between Bombay and Britain all contributed to the thorough and accurate dissemination of the latest design theories within India.The buildings of Bombay are, in many ways, unmistakably different from structures erected for similar uses in Britain. Some of these dissimilarities are naturally related to the climate and the construction materials employed, as even Smith had heartily argued that Gothic architecture had to be adapted to the climate and sunlight of the Indian subcontinent.The Victorians first employed science, engineering and imported products to solve their perceived architectural problems in India. But over time, creative architects who chose to work and live in the city became the dominant component that determined Bombay’s appearance. Architects such as Emerson, Stevens, Adams and Murzban adapted the accepted theories of architecture to the particular needs of India.Bombay Gothic’s heyday ended for many reasons. As political events in India became associated with stylistic preferences in architecture and nationalism began to coalesce into a recognizable movement, the architectural profession responded accordingly.The younger architects were actively looking for fresh solutions to stylistic and formal questions in architecture..

(Excerpted from Bombay Gothic By Christopher W London Published by IBH)


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