Take a drive in any big city—New Delhi, Mumbai, or Bangalore. Start from the physical centre and travel outwards, through suburbs, to outskirts, and beyond. You will experience, in one continual evolutionary sweep, the conception, design, quality and range of India’s urban architecture. From Mumbai’s commercial Georgian centre, or Delhi’s Connaught Place, or Bangalore’s restorative green parkland, the move outward is towards increasing centrifugal chaos and demographic conflict, a reminder of architecture’s physical and spiritual decline.
Wherever you go, the environment is in continuous flux: buildings shove, encroach and usurp land, a new building is rising, an old one is being torn down, a house is acquiring a second floor, telephone lines dug, construction material lie on the road. Roads are broken up, concrete sewer pipes placed along mountains of earth and uncollected garbage. Against a hot white sky, suburban malls and glistening office structures rise in steel, glass and brushed aluminium, glinting, reflecting and mirroring—futuristic foreign expressions set in Indian wilderness. Migrant labour huddle under their high-tech reflections; pigs and dogs stroll in the dirt near glassed and air-conditioned Reebok, Benetton and Levi’s outlets. Wads of notes change hands between builder and agent. In full public view, the schizophrenic character of the new India is on permanent display.