On the 126th birth anniversary if Mies van der Rohe, a formidable name in the architectural community, I cannot help thinking what his reactions would be to the kind of aesthetic we commonly see in Indian cities and towns.
When we were in architecture school, modernism was still regarded to be the last distinctive movement in terms of architectural philosophy and style. Our professors were those who had attempted to emulate their western heroes and tried their best to instill in us a love for the rationalist thought in which form, material and indeed every aspect of design originated from function. Clean lines, minimalism and the language of concrete are the visual images we took away from college, even as post-modern and deconstructionist design was sweeping the world. As we graduated and looked at the world around, we realized that the new ethic was all about pluralism, a variety of expression, experimentation, a bold flirtation with form and material- the complete opposite, in fact, of what we had been encouraged to idolize.
In India, though, the prevalent aesthetic is a curious mix of influences. Since architects play a minimal role in the built environment and the credentials (and ethics) of many architects who do are questionable, we see a lot of pop design all around us. Aspirational motifs ranging from Greek and Roman to colonial, traditional Indian temple architecture to glass clad techno facades converge such that our cities are a curious mish mash of visual stimuli. An orgy of elements and styles. Sure would make Mies turn in his grave, or if he had a sense of humor, laugh real hard!