Text and Photography: Ayesha Ali
Here’s an unusual question – do architects realize the role they play in defining their country’s place in history?
Odd question? …. But an interesting as well as an important question to ponder
Architects are perceived to be artistic technocrats who design buildings with the future in mind. The role of historian has not been associated with an architect. And yet, when an architect puts up a building, not only is he or she building a future habitat, the architect is simultaneously writing history in 3D.
For when we consider history, the most enduring testament to a nation’s past is its buildings: its architectural remains that tell the tale of days gone by. When there are no history books, no people left to tell what took place centuries ago, it is the buildings of that times, architects that recreate the civilizations of the past for us.
If a civilization flourished, it was reflected in its buildings, which were grand and ornate. They reflected the power that civilization wielded and they were representative of its economic stability. The designs and layouts told stories of what took place in them. The materials, with which the buildings were constructed, spoke of the country’s technology and indicated its trade link with various parts of the world from where these materials were sourced. This in turn illustrated the land or sea supremacy of the country and provided valuable clues regarding its technological status. The landscaping remains, fountains and statues revealed of how enhanced the residents’ comprehension of beauty was, and about their craftsmen, and consequently their culture. The street layouts showed their level of civic development, and drainage systems indicated the residents’ awareness of science and sanitation. The play and use of natural light and climate control employed within their buildings made evident the scientific thought process of the architects and scholars of their time.
Every country had its unique methods of decorating its buildings, and the art, color schemes, and style of different regions and cultures were reflected distinctly in its decorative art. The frescos and murals adorning the buildings in Italy depicting European figures and sceneries were very different from the strictly non-figurative geometric designs and color palates of Arabia; which again were very different from the miniature paintings and floral designs of the Mughals in the Indo-Pak region. The Far East too had its own unique decorative style that was immediately identifiable.