“The Sun does not realise how wonderful it is until a room is made.” -Louis Kahn
What normal eyes can’t put in perspective, architects put them into places and therefore any reality has to go through their checks and planning. They set new milestones and a new marvel with every new structure. This article is to discuss the unique techniques that went into making a few famous Indian marvels over time.
Starting with the temple of Brihadeshwara (1011 AD), a Chola era temple which is so spectacular that historians credit Lord Shiva, magic and even aliens for its construction. Built in signature Tamil architecture style, its 216 feet tall Gopuram stands absolutely straight even after one thousand years while Tower of Pisa and Big Ben is leaning. The gopuram or the pyramidical top was made out of 1.3 lakh ton granite while surprisingly there is no mountain within 60km of Thanjavur. This was made possible with the help of elephants who dragged large slabs to this place. A single stone weighing 81 tons is placed over the gopuram. If you are wondering how did they manage to lift this heavy stone to the height of 216 feet without using a crane then let me tell you that they actually made a 60 km ascending ramp in order to draw the stone from the mountain up to the top of the Gopuram.
Cholas of Thanjavur had elephants, the Rathors of Marwar did not but still they managed to build fort on a 400 feet tall dormant volcanic mountain amid wide desert. Rao Jodha began the construction of the marvel of Mehrangarh fort (15th century) in present day Jodhpur. The process had to start with cutting off lakhs of tons of rocks from the mountain. The raja employed people who were expert in this, Khandwaliya samaj, the stone experts who could check for fault lines in the rocks in different parts of the hill with a strike of hammer and start separating it from the main rock. Once the rocky platform on which fort was to be built was ready, the makers faced the old problem of carrying material to the top without a crane. The people of Chawaliya samaj solved the problem, they could lift heavy stones by using chains and laws of physics. They would skillfully construct ramps out of wood planks to reach the top and drop the stone slabs for construction. This is how the fort achieved its present form, multiple walled hard stone structure which has a heart of its own housing royal family, art, culture and beauty.
So no matter how difficult is the task at hand, the marvel makers found the right technique. But they didn’t stop there, they perfected their technique to such a level that puts even present day civil engineers in awe. One such example is Hampi, Vijaynagar. Tourists visit the place not just to see its architectural masterpiece but also to know what it sounds like. The makers have tuned its pillars to seven different swars of sargam. Many researches have been conducted worldwide by taking samples from the pillars but the mystery remains unraveled. Local guides believe it to be the way of pleasing and communicating with gods while researchers find this amazing workmanship to be the result of contacts with aliens.
With time buildings have changed to fit the mould of the people rather than the rulers. Talking of the recent buildings, the South Asian Human Rights Documentation centre in New Delhi is less heard of but its unusual look makes it stand out in the bustling surroundings and gives it a place in the list of marvels. The small plot of 50 sq m was to be used in a way that space is efficiently utilized while it remains cost effective. The facade is made of exposed bricks that are laid in a rotating manner to construct stunning twisted columns. The wall opposite to it is left plain in order to allow intriguing shadows to play and also to create an impression of openness.
While space optimisation continues to be a concern for architects, with the coming of the twenty first century the list has gone on to include sustainability,energy efficiency and ecstatic looks. The cybertecture egg of Mumbai which is more than just concrete, cement and glass. The design is inspired from celestial planets to symbolise that this commercial space supports life and its evolution. The glass facade has solar panels and the roof has wind turbines so that this 13 storeyed pillar-less egg remains self-sustainable. This building is a treat not just for spectators but also workers. It has restrooms that electronically monitor workers health through vital signs like weight, blood pressure and signals the doctor in case of any unusuality. This building is equipped with virtual screens that can show you scenes from any part of the world so that you don’t get bored looking at the same scene through your glass window. Its intelligent sensors manage energy use automatically by noticing the pattern of use. This smart building is not only improving worker’s experience but also the environment.