City secrets: Art Deco architecture spread across Kolkata

#1 Dec 13th, 2017, 00:05
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Deepanjan Ghosh

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In 2015, author Amit Chaudhuri started a movement to preserve ordinary Bengali homes in South Kolkata. The architecture of these homes, Chaudhuri said, was unique and its destruction would be a disaster. His movement and the pressure group that he created, Calcutta Architectural Legacies, has helped to shine a light on the kind of buildings that ordinary Kolkatans do not think of as constituting heritage.

“When we speak of Calcutta’s architecture, we usually mean the colonial institutions that the British erected,” wrote Chaudhuri. “Or the aristocratic mansions of North Calcutta built by Bengali landowners. But the houses I’m speaking of were built by anonymous builders for middle-class Bengali professionals: lawyers, doctors, civil servants and professors.” Chaudhuri also notes that a lot of these houses have in common, the presence of Art Deco elements such as “semi-circular balconies; a long, vertical strip comprising glass panes for the stairwell; porthole-shaped windows; and the famous sunrise motif on grilles and gates”.

Art Deco is so common in South Kolkata that most people are intimately familiar with it without even realising it. These neighbourhoods were the focus of a walk on December 5, led by Jawhar Sircar, the former CEO of Prasar Bharati. The walk was organised by the International Council on Monuments and Sites, an interdisciplinary, global network of architectural and archaeological heritage experts. “Jawhar Sircar has had a deep engagement with South Kolkata’s Art Deco style and advocated for it on various public forums,” said Kamalika Bose, urban conservationist and co-ordinator of the ICOMOS programme. But the focus on these architectural curiosities also raises a question – why did a 1920s European architectural style find so many takers in 1950s and 1960s Kolkata?
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#2 Dec 13th, 2017, 00:11
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I would love to have gone on this walk, or known the route to take while I was there some years ago! A really fascinating city. Yes, why did Art Deco become popular, and so long after it's heyday?
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#3 Dec 13th, 2017, 04:59
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I noticed one or two "Art Deco" style buildings in Mumbai's Colaba area. Admittedly their style was somewhat hidden under years of neglect.
I think nostalgia for the recent past probably plays a part in it's revived popularity. 1950's furniture and designs seem popular today.


Ed.
#4 Dec 13th, 2017, 05:32
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Originally Posted by aarosh View Post ...But the focus on these architectural curiosities also raises a question – why did a 1920s European architectural style find so many takers in 1950s and 1960s Kolkata?...
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Originally Posted by sab kuch milega View Post ...why did Art Deco become popular, and so long after it's heyday?
I had assumed these buildings were relics left over from 30's, and the "takers in 1950s and 1960s Kolkata" were people who loved and preserved them. Were they actually built in the 50s and 60's?
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Last edited by hfot2; Dec 13th, 2017 at 06:52..
#5 Dec 13th, 2017, 09:59
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Originally Posted by OldandRambling View Post I noticed one or two "Art Deco" style buildings in Mumbai's Colaba area. Admittedly their style was somewhat hidden under years of neglect.
I think nostalgia for the recent past probably plays a part in it's revived popularity. 1950's furniture and designs seem popular today.
Did you see any of the buildings in http://www.indiamike.com/india/mumba...decco-t266747/
#6 Dec 13th, 2017, 12:28
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May become as rare as Bungalows in Delhi in the future as concrete and brick pillbox high rises take over, kaliyug..
#7 Dec 13th, 2017, 13:06
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There are many art deco buildings in Jaipur. Homes in our neighborhood, done in the '50s, were in this style. Most of such houses have either been renovated and the original facade lost, or have been razed to the ground to make way for multistory construction. There were at-least a dozen theaters (all single screen) in Jaipur done in this style that have been successively razed or renovated- Ankur, Manprakash, Minerva all come to mind. Gem cinema survives but only as a sometimes open exhibition building. Premprakash (Golcha) retains the exterior but not the interior - its a three screen cinema now.There's an article online here - https://jaipurbeat.com/2017/06/26/th...mas-of-jaipur/

RajMandir, the theater, built much later (70s) is in this style and thankfully remains in good shape as it is in private hands who see a stronger case to preserve it rather than sell it.

All this reminds me of a book i read, and its still somewhere in the house where the author talked of a newish style if you will 'Punjabi Baroque' - extensions that grew through the liberalization upon dead bodies of the earlier art deco houses. Titled 'Butter Chicken in Ludhiana', Pankaj Mishra captures an India which has shrugged off its sleepy, socialist air and has become instead kitschy, clamorous and ostentatious.
#8 Dec 13th, 2017, 13:25
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City secrets: Art Deco architecture spread across Kolkata

@VA - do you sit with a dictionary while typing in the posts, because I need to sit with one while reading them!!
Sar Pass Trek , Rohtang, Munnar, Badrinath Kedarnath, Vaishnodevi, Goa, VOF, Kedarkantha, Kuari Pass, Brahmatal Trek
#9 Dec 13th, 2017, 18:01
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A recurrent motive in this architecture is the symbol consisting of three parallel horizontal lines with the middle one being longer than the other two. The building shown in post#1 has this symbol on the balconies. This often occurs with a circle superimposed upon the lines. This ia a simplification of the Zoroastrian "Ahura Mazda" symbol which in its full form is a winged anthropomorphic figure.




Source: http://www.writeopinions.com/ahura-mazda

When this Indian version of art deco first appeared in Bombay in the 1930s it was associated with the Parsi community.
#10 Dec 14th, 2017, 21:46
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Originally Posted by aarosh View Post Did you see any of the buildings in http://www.indiamike.com/india/mumba...decco-t266747/
Gosh, I missed that post about Mumbai art deco, very interesting. I snapped many interesting buildings in Mumbai, but seem to have missed the best!



While not in the grand style of art deco, I felt the detailing on either end of this sad Colaba building were in that style...

Edwin.
#11 Dec 15th, 2017, 04:38
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Originally Posted by vaibhav_arora View Post
All this reminds me of a book i read, and its still somewhere in the house where the author talked of a newish style if you will 'Punjabi Baroque' - extensions that grew through the liberalization upon dead bodies of the earlier art deco houses. Titled 'Butter Chicken in Ludhiana', Pankaj Mishra captures an India which has shrugged off its sleepy, socialist air and has become instead kitschy, clamorous and ostentatious.
I have that book myself but the "Punjabi Baroque" part didn't make an impression on me then...I'll have to re-read it! I remember walking along the Queen's Necklace in Mumbai and being struck by all the three story Art Deco apartments though...

V, you should be a writer (and you may be)...I always love to read your perceptive, well-articulated posts, always sprinkled with a pinch of self deprecating humour!

Take that Snotty! Maybe my post will send you scurrying for the dictionary as well
#12 Dec 15th, 2017, 05:13
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Originally Posted by Golghar View Post A recurrent motive in this architecture is the symbol consisting of three parallel horizontal lines with the middle one being longer than the other two. The building shown in post#1 has this symbol on the balconies. This often occurs with a circle superimposed upon the lines. This ia a simplification of the Zoroastrian "Ahura Mazda" symbol which in its full form is a winged anthropomorphic figure.




Source: http://www.writeopinions.com/ahura-mazda

When this Indian version of art deco first appeared in Bombay in the 1930s it was associated with the Parsi community.
I snapped this beauty in Colba, Mumbai :



Interesting to hear about the history of the emblem!

Ed.
#13 Dec 27th, 2017, 17:38
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Originally Posted by sab kuch milega View Post I have that book myself but the "Punjabi Baroque" part didn't make an impression on me then...I'll have to re-read it!
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Originally Posted by vaibhav_arora View Post All this reminds me of a book i read, and its still somewhere in the house where the author talked of a newish style if you will 'Punjabi Baroque' - extensions that grew through the liberalization upon dead bodies of the earlier art deco houses. Titled 'Butter Chicken in Ludhiana', Pankaj Mishra captures an India which has shrugged off its sleepy, socialist air and has become instead kitschy, clamorous and ostentatious.
I had mixed up two different books - I found Punjabi Baroque today while cleaning the book cupboard. It's titled "Punjabi Baroque And Other Memories of Architecture" written in semi autobiographical form by Gautam Bhatia. It's out of print but the lone review on Amazon makes it out to be a very good book. Any inconvenience caused in this regard is deeply regretted.
#14 Dec 28th, 2017, 09:51
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Originally Posted by vaibhav_arora View Post I had mixed up two different books - I found Punjabi Baroque today while cleaning the book cupboard. It's titled "Punjabi Baroque And Other Memories of Architecture" written in semi autobiographical form by Gautam Bhatia. It's out of print but the lone review on Amazon makes it out to be a very good book. Any inconvenience caused in this regard is deeply regretted.
At least I know I wasn't having a senior moment!
#15 Dec 28th, 2017, 10:30
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I came across this one a few days ago in a narrow lane near Wellington , built in 1957 ..
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