Rudimentary stepwells first appeared in India between the 2nd and 4th centuries A.D., born of necessity in a capricious climate zone bone-dry for much of the year followed by torrential monsoon rains for many weeks. It was essential to guarantee a year-round water-supply for drinking, bathing, irrigation and washing, particularly in the arid states of Gujarat (where they’re called vavs) and Rajasthan (where they’re baoli, baori, or bawdi) where the water table could be inconveniently buried ten-stories or more underground. Over the centuries, stepwell construction evolved so that by the 11th century they were astoundingly complex feats of engineering, architecture, and art.
He was a prophet without imprimatur in his own city. Charles Correa, who passed away late on the night of 16 June, was among the great architects of our times. His institutional buildings across the world are all iconic. Yet, Mumbai, his lifelong home, boasts just one* residential tower designed by him – an irony as much as a travesty. Though the cubist Kanchanjunga is eye-catching, it’s still high-rise: a genre caustically savaged by this patron saint of low-slung architecture.[more inside]
Established in 1814 by founding curator, the Danish botanist Nathanial Wallich at the premises of The Asiatic Society, the Indian Museum of Calcutta* is the oldest museum in Asia and the 9th oldest in the world. Referred to as a "museum of museums", considered outdated and obsolete, its Victorian Era majesty dimmed by modernization, the grande dame of Indian history still manages evoke paeans to its otherworldly wonders:
With collections to rival the Smithsonian and the British Museums, it isn't just a storehouse of countless artifacts from the world over. The building seems to be a tiny world, an island in the midst of a busy street. The tall gates with their spikes are the doorways to different recorded ages. All those entering through the high steps are travelers in a time machine. But this is not all that Kolkata's Jadughar or "House of Magic" has to offer. Its jadu lies in the magic with which it houses portions of man's past. The high ceilings seem to stretch to infinity. Amid the silence there is vibrant life. Showcasing essential elements of different cultures, the dark, often dank, interiors show up the objects more sharply. Gradually the eyes grow used to the absence of light; the smell seems natural. It is this ambience that gently draws you in and makes the textbook history we are used to, a tangible living reality.It remains a wonderful time-warp with plenty of mangy-looking stuffed animals, fish and birds, together with fossils so beloved of Victorian collectors, as well as fascinating Indian friezes, bas-reliefs and stone carvings and art.
Master Builder Uncovers Striking Similarities In Indian and Incan / Mayan Sacred Structures:- It is Sthapati's theory that Mayan, the creator of Indian architecture, originated from the Mayan people of Central America. In Indian history, Mayan appears several times, most significantly as the author of Mayamatam, "Concept of Mayan" which is a Vastu Shastra, a text on art, architecture and town planning. The traditional date for this work is 8,000bce. Mayan appears in the Ramayana (2000bce) and again in the Mahabharata (1400bce) - in the latter he designs a magnificent palace for the Pandava brothers. Mayan is also mentioned in Silappathikaram, an ancient Tamil scripture, and is author of Surya Siddhanta, one of the most ancient Hindu treatises on astronomy. (Original ca. 1995) [more inside]
In northeast India, a giant cliff leads up into a hidden world:
Lothlórien Meghalaya. Nearly two kilometers high and buffeted by monsoon storm clouds, this is possibly the wettest place on earth. Once, twenty-five meters of rain fell here in a year, the world record. Living here poses an unusual problem, and it's not just keeping dry. Nearly all the rain falls during the summer monsoon. Rivers switch from gentle streams to raging torrents. They become wild and unpredictable, and almost impossible to cross. Harley and his niece, Juliana, are busy cultivating a cunning solution. [more inside]
The newest and most exclusive residential tower for this city’s superrich is a cantilevered sheath of steel and glass soaring 27 floors into the sky. The parking garage fills six levels. Three helipads are on the roof. There are terraces upon terraces, airborne swimming pools and hanging gardens in a Blade Runner-meets-Babylon edifice overlooking India’s most dynamic city. There are nine elevators, a spa, a 50-seat theater and a grand ballroom. Hundreds of servants and staff are expected to work inside. And now, finally, after several years of planning and construction, the residents are about to move in. All five of them. [more inside]
When you think of Hinduism, you probably don't think of suburban Lilburn, Georgia, yet it is home to BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, at over 30,000 square feet the largest Hindu temple in the world outside of India. The beautiful temple was assembled from 34,000 pieces of Turkish limestone, Indian pink sandstone, and Italian Carrara marble hand-carved by some 1500 craftsmen in India, then shipped to Georgia, where about 900 volunteers put in over a million man-hours to bring the architects' vision to fruition (YT), at a cost of about US$19m. [more inside]
Dr. Frances W. Pritchett, Professor of Modern Indic Languages at Columbia University, New York, has created a superb online collection of resources, all about India and South Asia, its art, history, literature, architecture and culture. Her Indian Routes section (the Index page) is a particularly rich resource. Her vast, colorful and informative site also has many great images. Check out her "scrapbook pages" on the Princes l the Ghaznavids l British Rule l Women's Spaces l Perspectives on Hinduism. [more inside]
Contemporary architecture in India, a little look: Odd and unusual buildings l Mumbai 1, 2, 3 l Kerala backwaters l Kolkata l Architectural renderings from the Indian Skyscraper blog. [more inside]
Welcome to ArtServe: Art & Architecture mainly from the Mediterranean Basin and Japan.