A shift in cultural values—led by new design ideas such as fluid layouts, sustainability and a form of minimalism—is paving the way for a more dynamic and modern mode of Indian architecture.
From the marble-clad Lotus Temple in New Delhi and the energy-efficient Pearl Academy of Fashion in Jaipur, to the iconic House on Pali Hill in Mumbai—modern Indian architecture is a striking ode to the nation’s evolving diversity in cultural values and lifestyles.
An increasingly informed consumer has become an integral part of the fluid network of minds that execute the design process. This convergence of stakeholders influences important transformations in conception and process. As countless emerging trends reformat our relationship with space, there are three interlocking principles that frame this design era.
First, there is a deep emphasis on responsible design. Design that is not only socially and environmentally harmonious but also thoughtful of its place in a broader blueprint of urban planning.
Second, fluid spaces and open layouts take precedence; creating visually striking forms that are both intimate, accessible and fresh.
Third, a reignited experimentation of functionality that balances uniquely Indian, visually striking spaces.
Conscious creation is the call of the hour. The overlapping impact of a growing population, environmental concerns and social costs have driven industry-natives and consumers alike to rethink the far-reaching costs and benefits of development.
Contemporary constructions are conceived with the understanding that they are not isolated forms. Everything from their plumbing systems and electric framework affects their immediate landscape, neighbouring communities and larger urban ecosystem.
Innovations such as vertical gardens on skyscrapers, green office spaces and rainwater harvesting systems are an example of modern projects minimising their carbon footprints and delivering inventively human-centric spaces.
There is a large team of diverse experts involved in manifesting smart spaces. However, the exclusive talent of the architect and designer is their ability to influence behaviour.
A well-designed space encourages utilisation. Large windows in an alpine home, for example, swallow the area’s short hours of sunlight. Warming the proximate rooms and lighting them efficiently through the day.
In a tropical landscape, south-facing balconies—oriented against direct sunlight— with louvred fencing and a strategic water body accent naturally cool breezes channelled through the panelled frames.
Intuitively, residents maximise their use of these areas. Thereby, limiting the use of artificial temperature control or lighting.
In larger commercial developments or expansive residences, fluidity is the key to ensuring access and interaction. In a large development, closed spaces could provide seclusion at the risk of isolation.
Design plays a key role in office spaces where employees in one area form a collective core and rarely move to interact with their cross-departmental colleagues. Going beyond the barriers established by corporate infrastructure, conventional office spaces that are designed in bleached tones and arranged to reinforce hierarchies through corner offices or name plaques exude a sense of separation.
Similarly in historic palaces or mansions constructed to offer both protection and prestige to its owners, living quarters are not so much private as they are barricaded and fortressed.
As modern city dwellers, we crave a balance of serenity and human connection. Fluid spaces common to contemporary blueprints offer exactly that.
A kitchen with an island and floating appliances can open into the garden for outdoor dining. It can accommodate a bar area that connects with the living room or swimming pool. Suddenly, it’s no longer just a kitchen but a flowing space with the ability to seamlessly serve numerous occasions and functions—from formal dinners and large parties to quiet afternoons with the family.
Every era of design seeks a fingerprint for itself. Experimentation is an instrument of this evolution. Modern Indian architecture, in recent years, reflects a poetic return to the use of locally sourced materials and Indian craftsmanship, both of which are dispensed in reimagined, contemporary formats.
Even as eclectic tastes evolve, functionality remains paramount. Neo-Indian consumers seek a uniquely defining aesthetic palette that is pragmatic enough to support our increasingly fluid, secular and fast-paced lives.
Architecturally, traditional Indian elements like open pavilions and hallways complement the rise of fluid layouts in contemporary forms. Supplementally, materials like red bricks and local stones create an earthen warmth by pulling the outdoors, indoors.
A host of established and emerging home decor studios have risen to cater to the growing demands of this niche and rapidly evolving genre: whether it be organic fabric with minimalist Rajasthani prints or recycled wood furniture hand-painted with traditional elements.
This trend, like most that seek a fusion of disparate styles, requires invention. A traditional fixture cannot arbitrarily be assembled into a contemporary home. Adjusting the elements, forms and spaces to fuse together is not only a rigorous feat for design but it demands cohesive ingenuity in engineering, landscaping, electrical wiring, plumbing and lighting.
Turnkey experimentation catalyses progressive design. We are not only forging an era-defining neo-Indian aesthete, but we are also collecting a canon of work that will be a reference point for socially and environmentally harmonious architecture that aids future generations. So for many years to come, culture will not only influence but also depend on the far-reaching advantages of inventive, functional and responsible design.
The author is a Delhi-based architect and founder of an eponymous studio that offers comprehensive design-and-build services