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.'