Calcutta, India: Dover Lane: – A cosmo-ecological collective life of Indian modernity

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Following the first and second partitions of Bengal, in 1905 and 1947, respectively, Hindu East Bengalis, even if not particularly religious, were faced with the urgency to re- house themselves in West Bengal. Many of the areas in South Calcutta were built for the exiled East Bengali middle classes by Bengali builders in what was then wet-lands or ‘ jungle’ on Calcutta’s urban margins. Built without architects, but nonetheless evidencing commitment to collective cultural expression and aspirations, the streets accommodated individual family plots whilst bearing testimony to a shared economic and social enterprise. They were built with deep generational knowledge of the envi-ronmentally sensitive basis of tropical construction, with understanding of traditional cultural values but also the necessity to remodel them for the changed circumstance of the new communities. These factors establish these houses and streets as represent-ative of a unique Indian architectural modernity.
Although the specific artefacts and arrangements of these houses show clear understanding of western paradigms, they are of a specific Bengali and Indian tropical modernity, but also a cultural modernity arising from being steeped in the patterns emerging from the humanities of the Bengal Renaissance. It is no accident, then, that from the layout of the streets, the specific arrangement of buildings, the spaces within and between each building, right through to the name- plate fonts ( some of which name the owners and their occupations in both Bengali and English), these streets carry the confident sonority and rhythm of a well- educated literary society of modest means but with generosity and optimism of spirit towards a new collective, architectural and urban life.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArchitecture and Collective Life
EditorsPenny Lewis, Lorens Holm, Sandra Costa Santos
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Print)9780367633905
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2021

Publication series

NameCritiques: Critical Studies in Architectural Humanities

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • ecology
  • India
  • Calcutta
  • urban
  • modernity
  • housing


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