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Interpreting Deco In Delhi

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

Being an encapsulator of multiple ideologies and aesthetic sensibilities, the popularity of Art Deco in India across masses and eventually Delhi becomes an interesting link between analysing the history of arts and opening up a fresh discussion to engage a completely new audience in the current context.


The main issue with this kind of a style in Delhi is its lack of recognition as valuable or significant. It receives very little consideration although it plays an important role in the urban-scape of Delhi but its characteristics do not match with what people perceive as heritage at this point.


Art Deco in Delhi has fascinating inter-relationships with other architecture styles - Indo-Saracenic, Neo-classicist, Neo-gothic, the simplified streamline moderne which possibly paved way for modern architecture and design in Delhi. The replicability of the designs and motifs created a unique opportunity for the masses to participate in the design process which included the taste and values of the citizens in conjunction with the skills of the local craftsmen.

Most of the Art Deco structures in India were built during the 1900s starting from Bombay spreading to other parts of India including Delhi, continuing till 1960s. A lot of Indian elites and entrepreneurs travelling to Europe and the US in ocean liners, got exposed to the Art Deco style first hand. The eclectic nature of Art Deco made it a preferred choice to represent their elegant and modern lifestyle and it eventually got picked up by the middle class too.


The assorted nature of Art Deco offered the flexibility for it to be locally adapted in the region it travelled to. This is more appropriately known as Indo-deco - a term coined by Amin Jaffer and defined by the fusion of standard deco motifs with Indian traditional and religious elements. Some of the buildings even found in Delhi showcase glimpses of Indo-Deco within its residential, commercial and institutional typologies.

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