In the design world, the only thing that is constant is change. When it comes to home and architectural trends, they change over a span of time. But with every year come new inventions and innovative design aesthetics; from the introduction of new materials to architecture prototypes.
India’s architectural story has come a long way. Think artistic temples, Mughal-inspired large-than-life forts and palaces, British architecture that borrows heavily from Art Nouveau and what we see around us today — linear, geometric homes. India has seen a whirlwind of trends, right from kitschy Indian handicrafts that adorn the interiors of beautiful homes, dome-shaped architectural havens and old bungalows with high ceilings and majestic pillars making them a true vision of beauty. But if we were to pause for a month and look at the architecture around us at present, symmetrical homes with large glass windows and muted colour palettes are omnipresent. Further proving the fast pace at which India has been westernised owing to the phenomenon of globalization.
History of Art Deco in India
While the Art Deco movement was born out of modernity, it doesn’t fall in the modernism style. Architects such as Le Corbusier married both styles. Modern Indian architecture came around the twentieth century when India got independence, with architects like Le Corbusier leading the movement. Corbusier had designed the city of Chandigarh, an epoch of modernism. Modernism was apt for the country after independence, as a clean break from the British art deco style popular in the early twentieth century.
Thereafter, Indian architects were inspired and began implementing similar ideas. influence and that of other American and European masters helped bring about a modern architectural movement in India. But as cities grew, the population increased. The rise in population meant there is a greater requirement for housing spaces and efficient use of space.
Although the Art Deco movement began while the British were around, one can find its relevance even today. “Streamlined, geometric designs on the structures as well as the grills, curved balconies, sleek-looking structures and details — the global trend of art deco is timeless,” added Kaushik. While Art Deco made its appearance in the West in the mid-to-late 1910s in France, it developed into a major style in western Europe, the US and Mumbai during the 1930s. With over 600 Art Deco buildings, Mumbai has the world’s second-largest collection of Art Deco structures, after Miami.
Some iconic buildings in Mumbai such as the Art Deco buildings on Marine Drive were recognized last year by Unesco as a World Heritage site. As Unesco recognized, the value of Mumbai’s Deco does not lie in the drama of a single structure but in the spirit of the ensemble. This fabric represents the making of modern Bombay, as it was then known. Mumbai’s Art Deco structures are not as grand as New York’s Chrysler Building. Instead, they resemble Miami’s laid-back tropical deco. “Evolved in France, the famous architectural style entered the Indian urbanscape through Mumbai in the 1930s. Moving away from traditionalism and towards modernism. Also, the invention of RCC gave Indian architects a free hand in experimenting with the art deco style. Easy to work with, the art deco movement soon spread to different cities of India and now we have plenty of examples of famous art deco buildings,” said architect Aparna Kaushik.
If one were to dive deep into the history of Indian design, elements like tessellations, and carvings – not only on furniture but also walls and monumental facades— are common elements from the Art Deco style. But over time, these elements that defined Indian architecture have been replaced with newer forms of design. Whether those forms are simply easier to maintain, more environmentally friendly or just pleasing to the eye is still a debate, and the conclusion is yet to be deciphered. Are homes becoming more westernised? Can we see the silent death of Art Deco and Art Nouveau-inspired homes?
Diving deeper into the changing scape of Indian architecture, Luxebook spoke to celebrity architect and interior designer, Rupin Suchak; architect Aparna Kaushik and Rashi Bothra and Ruchi Gehani – Founders and Interior Designers, Azure Interiors.
Art Nouveau VS Art Deco
Art Nouveau and Art Deco, simply put, are two forms of art that describe a certain sense of aesthetics. “Art Nouveau is the more organic style whilst Art Deco tends to be more refined,” shared Aparna Kaushik.
“The key difference between the two is that Art Nouveau was inspired by nature, creating elegant and flowing designs, motifs and muted tones. Whereas the Art-Deco style was inspired by the industrial revolution, and the designs were symmetrical, streamlined and machine-made objects. Art Deco further became a staple of the luxury industry,” shared the duo Rashi Bothra and Ruchi Gehani.
Art deco as luxury
Talking about the influence of these art forms in modern-day homes Suchak says, “Art Deco is a classic and is coming back to life in recent years. Nouveau on the other hand is more experimental and very few would attempt it. Both period styles are elaborate in their representation so unlike their original periodic years they don’t find full expression in spaces. We tend to use bits of each respectively as per the need of the space.” During the peak of the Art Deco movement, Art Deco represented luxury and glamour and was known for its technical progress. It combined modernist styles with its fine craftsmanship and the use of rich materials. And until today, it still represents luxury and finesse.
Ruchi and Rashi point out that Art Deco replaced Art Nouveau’s soft styles which are derived from nature with the repetitive use of linear and geometric shapes. Hence making homes today resemble a more linear design. For Suchak, Art Deco is a classic, often used as an adaptation to the most recent times.
Return to the classics
Rashi and Ruchi said, “Art Deco design embraced modern materials, like stainless steel to create a sense of glamour, improvidence and sophistication. Modern and Art Deco surely have some overlapping features, but modernism emphasises forms rather than ornament.” Further adding Kaushik shared, “To create spaces or design inspired from Art Deco era, one needs to incline towards opulent and bold designs. It is modern and elegant at the same time. The style involved a lot of shapes, bold patterns and textures. In the recent past, a major shift in trend is now towards neo-classical or modern classic designs as these are timeless. Contemporary/minimal design has been exhaustively used and families have now realised that these elements are more trendy than timeless.”
Western aesthetic vs Indian classics
After speaking to industry experts, it’s evident that the modern form of architecture, design and interiors relies heavily on Art Deco. And if one were to take a closer look at the homes around us, with a critical eye we will be able to point out the use of symmetry, balance, modern materials and more that boasts glamour and sophistication. Hence, we can say the rise of contemporary homes does borrow from Art Deco elements. But what about elements typical of India’s cultural and classical heritage?
While people have adapted to the modern design language it is often fused with Indian design elements. Due to international exposure, Indians are borrowing concepts from the West but not at the cost of completely losing their heritage. “The situation we are at right now is making us use more of our locally available materials. It’s just that only the techniques have changed so far. Earlier metal was used in furniture only, now it is being used in flooring inlays and wall panelling. Likewise, the usage of materials has changed and the process of doing it has been opted by the western culture,” feel Ruchi and Rashi.
But Rupin rightly points out that modernisation is taking over, and everyone wishes to adapt to it in their own manner. “As I said our exposure to travelling has made us reimagine our spaces with a different sense of style. But the Essence of Indian craftsmanship is retained by a few and amalgamated with the modern. Indian heritage cannot be lost easily as it dates back as much as 10,000 years. Heritage reflects at several levels not just in architecture.”
Pros and Cons of modern homes
Now that we have established a connection between a modern home and Art Deco it is worth throwing light on the pros and cons of such modern styles. One of the many pros of modern homes is the aesthetics and glamour they ooze, but the immense use of glass windows also hampers the temperature of the home making them extremely warm.
For Ruchi and Rashi the pros are attributed primarily to the aesthetics. “Art Deco was known for using luxury materials and strong colours. It is elegant as well as sophisticated. People are looking for new ideas which were one of the main characteristics of the Art Deco movement. ” However, one of the major cons for them is the lack of a sustainable approach in Art Deco homes. In a world where eco-friendly living is key, Art Deco home use multiple materials like plastic, lacquered finishes and polishes which are not environmentally friendly or sustainable.
On the contrary, Rupin offers insight at a deeper level saying Art Deco homes are for those who enjoy the design moment. “It is not about living in an Art Deco, inspired home, rather it’s important to know the period, fall in love with the details of it, appreciate the intricacies and symmetry that this design movement stood for and then finally draw inspiration and adapt it to our space.”
He further cautions, “The incorrect usage of a lot of shapes makes the ergonomics out of place from the utility perspective. Design-wise it is very important to study every intricate detail of what the article stood for and then reinvent it and adapt it to our space till the time we do that the same inspiration can have a lot of drawbacks when incorporated inside a space or a Home.” Because ultimate what brings the home together is a carefully selected range of design elements and we all know the impact one wrong angle can have on the larger structure.
And always remember — “Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness” – Frank Gehry