ACKNOWLEDGEMENTI would like to express my gratitude to my mentor Professor Sanmarga Mitra for his coordination and cooperation in the preparation of this report.
I thank him heartily to introduce me to ‘Architecture of Shantiniketan’; the name indicates the subject of this book. I am also thankful to my friend Debeshi Ghosh for contributing her time in listening and helping me articulate this paper. ABSTRACTIn the reconstruction of the society, Rabindranath Tagore had introduced an idea of a global society in which learning through nature was given more importance than man-made institutions. Away from the political confusion of pre-independence India, Tagore expresses his idea through his writings, and its effect on the rural setting of Shantiniketan, a small town in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. An implementation of Tagore’s idea of a global society can be evidently seen in the Viswa Bharti University in Shantiniketan, where learning and nature are harmonized closely.
The Bengal Art Movement had induced a contemporary revival of art ; craft forms in Bengal. In the social context, Tagore had worked on a rural rejuvenation programme for the tribal of the region to reinvigorate their art ; craft to a larger community. The programme facilitated a revival of culture through gatherings amidst nature for celebrating the changing seasons. Tagore’s comprehension of Traditional Architecture developed through his visits to places in India and abroad. His artistic conception of buildings at Shantiniketan instigated a character of its own which reflects the Tribal cultural, & the traditional architecture of the region. Tagore’s influence into the social framework of the region is immense ; the thesis aims to incorporate such architectural character into the design.
The intention of this research paper is to derive the architectural vocabulary of Tagore’s building at Uttarayan Complex & Kalobari at University. KEYWORDS: Community, Reinvigorate, Shantiniketan, Tribal, Vocabulary.1. INTRODUCTIONThe Social framework of Shantiniketan, a brainchild of Rabindranath Tagore, was of immense dimension and can be categorized in ways of its artistic expression, the extent of unconventional ideas and the creative fields that was instigated in the Tribal community of the region.
The University at the ashram precinct appeared as Tagore’s ultimate notion and welcomed scholars, researchers from the orient as well as the west. The cultural variation induced an amalgamation of social ideas and contemporary thoughts in one place. This cultural amalgam emerged in the form of an unconventional educational system defying the western structure, a social character that addresses the tribes of the region and an architectural character which showcase traditional inspiration into contemporary evolution. Nature is a core element of Shantiniketan ; its Architecture. As quoted by Rabindranath-‘The world is made up of 3 constituent parts- Man Nature & Brahma, which form the motifs of Shantiniketan’s architecture.’ Hence, the social spaces, as well as the architectural inspiration, are defined by its environment: the tree foliage, the vast landscape, the open grounds, the jungle haat etc. Aim & ObjectiveThe aim of this paper is to derive this architectural notion stimulated by Rabindranath in Shantiniketan which defined a design character addressing the various needs, modified construction techniques and the climatic factor of the region.
The style generated in the process had been influenced by the Bengal Art Movement which was originally led by Abanindranath Tagore and initiated the process of intercultural fusion and assimilation of ideas in architectural spaces. To study Tagore’s architectural style, analyzing case studies of his residences at the Uttarayana Complex and institutional buildings will devise a design framework. The Architectural character is rich in its form and visual graphic; the innovation in construction techniques and; the spatial transformation with.
The paper will focus on comprehending this Architectural vocabulary Scope ; LimitationsThe study will look into an era of art ; architecture movement in India ; will try to perceive the style evolved in the process. The study has an opportunity to perceive the evolution of the Social Architectural spaces of Shantiniketan. The research will produce design framework on the transformation of construction technology with newer materials evolved from vernacular architecture style.The Research area is limited to building studies in Shantiniketan. The buildings that are considered for the study are Punascha, Udichi ; Shyamoli (Tagore’s Residences), Kalo Bari (Institution Buildings).
2. TAGORE IN SHANTINIKETANRabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) is considered as one of the greatest and most noble figures of the modern times. A Nobel Laureate (1913) affectionately revered as ‘Kabi Guru’ (the poet), a thinker & writer whose works highlighted meticulous details of the conservative societal norm and complication. He was born at one of the noble and humble families of Bengal. As a child, Tagore was surrounded by scholars, philosophers, artists & musicians; a household buzzing with cultural temperament.
Rabindranath’s fascination and perception of space originated from the large double verandas, huge central courtyards accommodating cultural programmes and elaborate rooms of his ancestral residence at Jorasanko, Northern Calcutta, where he was born. Debendranath Tagore, the father of Rabindranath, was a Maharshi who found Shantiniketan suitable for meditational recreation. He acquired a barren, vast piece of land from the Zamindar of Raipur whose magnificent Palace was a few miles away. Here he established an ashram where anyone, irrespective of caste and creed, could come and spend time meditating on the one Supreme Formless being.
Before coming to Shantiniketan, Tagore would frequently travel to ‘Silaidoha’ (now in Bangladesh) during his early days for accounts of family zamindari. It was an opportunity to move out from the family home at Jorasanko in northern Calcutta and explore the rural lifestyle of Eastern Bengal, know his countrymen. At Shantiniketan, he would establish the Viswa Bharati University in the year 1921 which became the cultural foci of India and the east in some time. Tagore established Shantiniketan and the nearby villages as a multifaceted vision that would aim unity of humanity in the different culture around the world. He incorporates Arts and musical elements into education for emotional development, encouraged sustainable approach towards building environment, involved in social work to help neighboring villages promoting rural development through Sriniketan. He left behind a Living tradition of Utsavs, Festivals, ; Mela as an intrinsic character of Shantiniketan, a heritage that is celebrated around the world. The establishment of ‘Sriniketan’ opened doors for tribal communities of Bengal to communicate to the outer world through their arts, music, and lifestyle which further encouraged the idea of a cross-cultural conglomeration of societies.3.
COMPREHENDING TAGORE’S SOCIAL NOTIONS & ITS IMPRESSION.Rabindranath Tagore is fondly admired as the ‘Poet’, but his artistic 4. TAGORE’S ARCHITECTURAL VISIONShantiniketan originated with an idea, an alternative space where learning took place hand in hand with nature: a rational connection between man and the environment. He could not avoid dealing with built spaces and nature as he regarded the school as his ‘tangible poetry’. This attachment to Shantiniketan had brought him to this barren. The task of architectural analysis, therefore, attempts to clarify meaning in the architecture, rather than describing its physical qualities and history alone.
The built spaces and landscape can be analyzed and read with the attributes juxtaposing it with a spatial and cultural ideal in a historical context. Tagore’s vision of architecture is inspired from traditional building language of the Indian subcontinent. His ideas are then rendered by collaborators into built form. The built environment considers various attributes of design elements that qualify many creative dimensions of Tagore’s personality.
Tagore gave names to each of his houses. The name of different houses is linked to the spatial configuration and fabric of its characteristics. Tagore’s linguistics of poetic vocabulary lends an artistic embodiment which has a characteristic of its own. Hence, the nomenclature of each house is associated with its dominant Architectural schema.5. DERIVING TAGORE’S ARCHITECTURAL VOCABULARY THROUGH CASE STUDIES.’Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, where knowledge is free, where the world has not been broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls,Where words come out from the depth of truth.
‘KONARKAKonarka is a single storied built in 1918. This house is one of the the first built outside the ashram and took different shape at different times. The distinguishing feature of the house is its salient long and linear entrance of the dwelling leads to the central living space of the building. Both roofs and floors are arranged around this central space. The interior spaces at various levels with the roof give a distinctive character to the overall architecture.
The level play is influenced by the financial constraints during construction creating scope for the artistic manifestation of the structure. The narrow and horizontal expansion in harmony with the landscape, this house renders Tagore’s idea of man and nature provides a clear vision to the trees around. The central space oriented towards the east allows it to bring in early sun rays at a lower angle. The verandah itself departs from conventions of similar space. Generally, a verandah extends along the building wall defining the visible variation of space. The verandah was built to hold poetry recitation and cultural programme, a multi-usable space that defines its functional nature with activities surfacing around it. The name Konarka, literally means ‘sun rays entering from the corner’, was born out of an architectural and spatial identity.
I have changed my room again. Within Udayana only. I should let you know here that the house is called Udayana. There are two small rooms on the northern part (of this house).
I love rooms of this kind, because, let me tell you, if the room itself is large, then the outside is distanced. It is a spacious room that actually imprisons a human being because the mind makes itself comfortable in the sizeable space, pushing the external world still further away. There is nothing I this small room that is beyond my wants of living. There is a bed, a table, a stool- I have not tried to get a mouthful of sly in the room by tying the sky to a piece of furniture. I want the sky in its own place- in its wholesome, pure form.
The moment I let it go, it comes and stands right beside me. It is just a few steps away from the wooden cot on which I sit; it leans cozily against the window. Its task is to let the mind go on vacation. If it itself doesn’t get sufficient leaves, then it cannot give the mind a holiday. This time I have been able to achieve the right accord between my room and the sky- I am happy. -Rabindranath TagoreUDAYANAfter Konarko, Tagore commenced upon his most elaborate and ambitious project, Udayan, took over eighteen years to complete. It construction initiated in 1919 sharply after Viswa Bharati’s genesis as a center of Indian culture as well as the center of the arts (Sanyal, 2015). At one of his early visit to Japan, he was immensely overwhelmed to know how Buddhist philosophy unifies the character of both built and open space design of Japanese household.
Before looking into the buildings architectural and aesthetic growth, we must first discuss the socio-political and socio-cultural events that influence Tagore in its conception. The first event was the continuation of the project at New Delhi after the war. Although the buildings here highlighted few elements of traditional Indian motifs and details, the hegemony of western classicism in its scale and proportion emphasized the aesthetics and architectural vocabulary. Tagore was creating a contemporary Indian architectural identity challenging with the architecture of Shantiniketan. Secondly, with the help of Gagnendranath and Abanindranath, Rabindranath organized the first ever Bauhaus’s (1919) exhibition outside Germany here in Calcutta in the year 1922 (Kämpchen, 2013). The exhibition had works of artists from India and Germany (Weimar based avant-garde artist). This contrast and similarities or dissimilarities of Bauhaus with the Indian art scenario was somehow indicative of Tagore’s discovery of the contemporary but culturally rooted Indian identity. ‘Khaoi’, a river runs down the landscape of Shantiniketan has always been an inspiration for Rabindranath.
The changing landscape of Khaoi stimulated an architecture with levels and projections; with openings and outside connection; with light and shadow. In harmony with the vast landscape of Shantiniketan, horizontal expansion of the space and form had an emphasis on the built form. The shifts of the structural plane along horizontal and vertical direction give it an aesthetic that is one of its kind.
Though the level play had taken place due to financial limitations which indicates the construction phased at different times. The architectural character of this house is closely coupled with the sunlight falling on its surface changing the visual experience with each day and each season. Rabindranath’s concept of architecture reveals the relation between man, building, and nature; of binding the infinite into the finite space. Each room in Udayan had achieved a unique attribute of its own because of the multi-leveled spatial distribution.
The building has abundant opening; of doors and windows and verandah which are thresholds that establish a physical linkage with the environment around it. The building shows elaborate woodwork in the interior which is influenced by Japanese wooden details. Kintaro Kasahara, a wood sculptor from Japan who would teach at Kala Bhavan, had participated to work out the wooden details.
The eastern verandah with the entrance was again a multi-usable culture-specific architectural element that would hold various occasions. With establishing Udayan, which means ‘the dawning’, Tagore defines an identity in architecture that diminished to a very simplistic derivation and attempts to demonstrate a contemporary architectural language, ‘Indian-ness’. Revisiting into architectural endeavors of this building:• The schema of the building had evolved with time with rooms at different levels due to financial constraints.• The use of murals and wall motifs had an artistic implication of traditional design elements interpreting in a modern house.
• With Udayan, Tagore attempts to demonstrate how the contemporary interpretation of building space could be referenced to the cognitive and rational amalgamation of the east and the west but is culturally grounded to the contextual architecture heritage.• Tagore’s immense consideration of co-relation of nature and built space is evident in the form and proportion of the building where the vast landscape of Shantiniketan spreads around it.SHYAMOLICreation of the house ‘Shyamoli’, meaning ‘the dark one’, is significant.
Wholly built of mud, it has a closed plan and very few opening in the exterior, unlike previous houses. Tagore designed it as his last abode anticipating his own death due to severe illness. The house emerged in close relation with prominent artists of the time: Surendranath Kar, Nadalal Bose & Ramkinkar Baij. The Spatial disposition was planned by Surendranath; the visual perspective, frescoes and the sculptures on the walls were made by Nandalal and Ramkinkar. ‘The home of my last years would be built on the earth. I will call it Shyamoli. When I will fall apart, it will be like falling off to sleep- Dust will return to dust.’ The house carried elements of Buddhist Chaitya style and yet at utilitarian perspective, it indicates the influence of courtyards rural or traditional house.
The long verandah around the house is a very traditional architectural element that creates an interesting combination of open and closed spaces. The reliefs on the outer wall surface are inspired from the tribal rural lifestyle and showcased figurines similar to that in the caves of Buddhist Chaitya. The mud roof along with the walls was covered with bitumen to avoid the seasonal erosion on the surface. A cave-like quality of the dwelling entrance akin to Buddhist architecture, which itself forms and defines its main entrance doorway.
The spatial arrangement and the built schema merged in coherence with the earth and environment, a characteristic of the caves of Ajanta, fresh and serene. The resulting architecture:• Converges with Tagore’s personal desire to be one with the earth.• Re-structuralizing the local vernacular building methods to build a mud house (roof itself made of mud). • The architectural inspiration takes reference from built heritage in contemporary architectural design manifesting an original interpretation.The Bengal Art movement has always influenced Tagore’s notion on Art and Architecture.
Revivalism and Nationalism of art form alone can’t fulfill the architectonic demand. Experimentation and exploration of contemporary needs and the expression concepts with re-structuralization of construction practice challenges in Indian Modernism in arts and architecture; a renunciation from the western thoughts believing in the monumental volumes, Tagore, and his colleagues focused on a nationalist architecture movement.PUNASCHAPunascha, built in 1936, was Tagore’s 4th house in the complex and Surendranath Kar aided to realize this structure. Punascha means ‘postscript’, here to Shyamoli, is a small house adjacent to Shyamoli towards its eastern face. The house comprises of a central room with a raised ceiling which consisted ventilators and an enclosed verandah surrounding it. The characteristic of this house is the southern entrance porch, which is semi-circular in shape, open from above and is stepped up.
Two free-standing walls on either side of the porch with openings partly cover it and distinguish the dwellings boundary without a roof on top. Rabindranath would sit here and write alongside the wooden windows. Clear glass windows along the exterior wall represent Tagore’s efforts to establish a linkage visually with nature. Daily activities happening around the enclosed verandah could be seen from outside. This was necessary for Tagore was aging and health complications followed. The overall volume and proportion of this house are very similar to that of Shyamoli.
The spatial disposition in Punascha deviates from the traditional space hierarchy into a utilitarian centric architecture. UDICHIAfter living in Punascha for two years, Tagore desired to move yet again. His desire was fulfilled by Surendranath Kar who created Sejuti (1938-1939), the last house in the complex Tagore created which was later renamed Udichi. Udichi is to the south-east of Punascha. It was originally constructed on elevated short columns where the very intimate and the only habitable spaces were positioned at this level; a distinctive ingredient in designing the building. It has many glass windows along the covered verandah that surrounds the room. These windows are ornated with a blend of Mughal arches and rectangular windows.
The use of glass has persistently maintained a visual relation of man and his surroundings. The vertically elongated glass opening establishes a sense of transparency with the outside environment; trees, grass, birds and so on. The lower collonade was later covered with windows and walls used as living space.
The upper usable space is reached with a staircase. This staircase was special, the horizontal and vertical had been such harmonized one never feels the strain to climb up. The underlying concept of ‘Udichi’ in Sanskrit refers to ‘the action of going up’. The building itself was the ultimate embodiment of Tagore merging the language of communication and the language of architecture till the end of his life.