Unsupported browser

For a better experience please update your browser to its latest version.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

BOOKS Traditional Buildings of India

  • Comment

by Ilay Cooper and Barry Dawson. Thames and Hudson, 1998. 192pp. £26

Ilay Cooper carried out architectural surveys in India for the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, established by Indira Gandhi, writes Deborah Singmaster. Traditional Buildings of India is the result of his research, splendidly illustrated by Barry Dawson's photographs.

Cooper covers the main geographical areas, describing local building methods - many of them highly decorative - and setting them within the context of local customs and conditions. Buildings described range from haveli mansions (multi-tenanted and in decline since Partition) to mud and dung tribal houses in West Bengal. Techniques depend on availability of materials: mud, bamboo, squashed oil cans, camel bones (used to line the walls of wells). These methods are now under threat; industrialisation and Western influence have popularised concrete and steel at the expense of indigenous materials, often with disastrous results: metal roofs, used to replace thatch in the north-east, result in heat loss and are deafening in the rainy season.

The British architect Laurie Baker, who has worked for most of his life in India, has tried to reverse this trend. Cooper says of Baker's efforts: 'If a fashion for the traditional is established amongst the urban rich it will filter down to rural folk and they will cease to yearn for a concrete cube.'

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.