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AN ENQUIRY INTO THE DIFFERENCES OF TRADITION AND MODERNISM

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The distinction between tradition and modernity was explored as early as 1934 by Ananda Coomaraswamy in his The Transformation of Nature in Art and in 1942 by Rene Guenon in his The Crisis of the Modern World. But these books did not receive much attention as the world was looking forward to modernism as a helping tool in those times. But after World War 2, modernism was put into question and since then has been the question of the hour. Consequently, the potentiality of modernising traditional architecture or traditionalising modern architecture has received close attention but people still debate over its outcomes and present their non directional views.

Modernity has been defined as the state of being modern where in we cut off completely from the past which is seen as normative and where tradition is powerless, An another approach could be when we see tradition as a derivative of religion and modernity as a derivative of non-religious themes like science, building construction, economic and political development etc.

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Tradition has been defined rather indiscriminately. All through history tradition has different meanings and approaches. According to one definition, it denotes ‘transmission’, verbal or experiential whereby beliefs, activities, taste, festivals, images of people, practices, knowledge, events or institutions are propagated over time from one generation to another.

Although the concept of modernity spring in the developed nation, but in today’s time, developing nations like India are more inclined to new materials, machines as they have interpreted that modernism is the key to being a developed nation in today’s world. Here architecture goes into intense reformation everyday and the traditional is looked as obsolete and modernism as a ‘new way of living’.

Modernist architects came up with a utopian model of an ideal city where the low rise and densely populated has to be demolished and new high rise apartments have to be build in order to get everybody into a mechanical order for smooth running of cities. But they ignored the socio-cultural aspects of living in such spaces which has given way to theft, robbery, rape, unhappy living conditions. 1.1 Introduction

Vidhya Mohankumar, urban planner, architect and founder of Urban Design Collective, defines cities as “an archive of time”. She says: “They give you a sense of different eras, a feel of what has passed. They are like legacies waiting to be read and unfolded.” While walking down the streets of any of the age old civilizations we realise every city speaks its own language, be its architecture, politics or culture. The newer cities have their tales to speak too.

Let us travel back in time and have a look at the advent of Industrial Revolution. While machines were being discovered and factories setup for mass production of goods, it was obvious that standards had to be designed and cloned in large numbers to meet the growing demands. Architects of the time reacted to the failure of architecture in meeting social needs and responded to the issues with a new architecture called ‘Modernism’. They believed design and technology would transform society and raise the standards of living for all people. Pursuing ‘order’ and ‘universals’ in architecture, modernism utilized new materials and advanced technology and rejected old, traditional, historical ideas and styles, and ornamentation. Modernism emphasized function, simplicity, and rationality, and created new forms of expression with a new aesthetic that were considered appropriate for all nations and cultures.

The Industrial Revolution had such an impact that its tremors can be felt today too. Now speaking of recent time, ‘technology’ is one word which is common for all, offering a single solution for all kinds of problems. With the advent of newer construction materials like steel, concrete and glass and their spread across the world due to advancement in technology, it has led to cities rendering a common fabric. Everybody wants to go higher due to crunch of land and also to appear bigger than the big, wanting to build iconic structures succumb to the few materials listed above. Cities are henceforth expanding vertically as well as horizontally with an indistinct motto in their heads which experts call ‘development’. Everybody from the chai wala to the neighbourhood aunty to the promising politicians are working towards development not realising what is the city getting to at the end of this pomp and show. The concept of contemporary architecture has been boiled down to tall glass buildings – a concept adopted by cities such as Dubai and Singapore. While these cities have stellar roads, highways and general infrastructure, it must not be forgotten that these cities are much younger in comparison to old civilizations like India. Apprehensive people ask, in the quest to become “modern”, are Indian cities slowly losing their soul and uniqueness?

If that is the case throughout the world with everybody heading towards one goal, following more or less the same procedure what outcome do we expect? Answer is similar typologies throughout the world.

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