Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Guest Post: Architect Amrita Kangle presents the story of Domes

Standing on the vaulted, sun-washed terrace, the burning day bore mute testimony to my euphoria at being at a place where architectural history had been made.Made and then had stood still, unmoved by time or by the hurrying feet of history, as sentinel to the Emperor who slept in eternal peace beneath its balming shade. The scent of heady jasmine, orange blossom and water on parched ground assailed my nostrils while the majestic dome of Humayun’s tomb soared upwards towards the heavens.

This exquisite mausoleum was designed by the Persian architect Mirakh Mirza Ghiyath, who was commissioned by Humayun’s chief consort Bega Begum and his son Emperor Akbar. It will forever be hailed as the structure that took a giant leap in Mughal architecture and became the forerunner in introducing garden tombs in India.

Made up entirely of rubble masonry and red sandstone, the central marble dome, all white,is a picture in sharp contrast. The design of the dome follows that of a Persian double dome on a high neck drum. The outer layer supports the white marble exterior while the inner portion of the dome gives shape to the cavernous interior.

Image Source HERE

By Samir Luther - originally posted to Flickr as Humayan's Tomb, CC BY-SA 2.0, 

Domes by their very shape have always evoked a response from man. Essentially, a dome is a hemispherical structure which evolved from the arch. It is in effect a collection of arches all sharing the same centreand evolved gradually over the centuries from being solid mounds to ecoming extremely complicated ribbed and fluted structures which conveyed the impression that they were as light as air. Despite their frivolous appearance, domes actually serve a very practical purpose.

In Greek architecture, the stone lintels used to support their flat roofs needed to be supported by columns, which could be at the very most 21 feet apart. As compared to that, a brick arch in the same period could span a distance of 150 feet. The possibilities that this freedom offered to architects and designers was quite mind boggling, since they now had the freedom to design uninterrupted spaces without the intrusion of heavy columns to mar the architect’s visualization of unlimited open space.

One of the first concrete domes to be constructed was on The Pantheon in Rome, built in 126 AD as a temple for all the Roman gods. It had an opening in the centre: the oculus. This famous dome continues to be the largest concrete dome almost two thousand years after it was first built.

The interior of the Pantheon as it appeared in 1734 in a painting by Giovanni Paolo Pannini.

A bright, airy and beautifully simple, large open space illuminated with diffused sunlight, pouring in through the oculus, is the real beauty of the Pantheon. The large open space which enfolded so much of the vast universe within its confines was truly fit to be an abode for the Almighty.


Begun in 1296 and completed just a few years later in 1436,The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the symbol of the city of Florence.

Photo Credit:Originally posted by Geanina HERE 

Designed by Filipo Brunelleschi, this famous dome is named after its creator and mirrors the ideals of the Renaissance period, one of which was to place an almost unlimited trust in man’s abilities. This ideal could not have been proved truer than in Brunelleschi’s dome which is an engineering and a designing marvel.

The cupola has two parallel shells, which are connected by brick spurs. The internal one is the real roofing while the external one made of bricks is just 80cms thick and makes the dome visible from afar. The finished height of the dome is 114 meters. The Duomo is visible from every part of the city and towers over the city as if standing guard while its citizens frolic and have their time in the sun.

Domes, as we can see have continued to fascinate man down the ages. It is as if these lofty, soaring structures have given wing to man’s imagination and every leap in design has been a personal, twofold leap for man in his search for perfection. St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the Taj Mahal in Delhi (amongst many others) all reinforce the fact that amongst all God’s creatures, it is man alone who He created closest to His own form. He blessed man with the ability to create!

About the author: Amrita Kangle studied Building Design and Architecture at Sir J.J College of Architecture, Mumbai, India. She is the Founder of Amrita and Priyanka Associates, the Award Winning firm in Mumbai. She is a voracious reader and writer of enormously humorous writes on day-to-day life. She lives and works in Princeton, New Jersey, USA as a Realtor while her love affair with bricks and mortar continues to flourish. Check out on her website: . You may also like to look her up on Facebook  Click HERE 

Apart from being a Realtor, she obsesses on, first, her son, and then her husband . And food. The last two are interchangeable she says, depending on her mood.

Click on Tombs to read her post on some of the most exotic resting places for the famous. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Book Review: Delhi: 14 Historical Walks by Swapna Liddle

Picture Credit HERE
On December 11, 1911, Emperor George V of Britain announced the change of the capital of India, from Calcutta to Delhi. Immediately, architect Edwin Luytens, who had designed Hamstead Garden Suburb in London was called upon to build the new city. Luytens along with his associate, Herbert Baker did what he could best do, taking inspiration from the garden city of Hamstead Garden Suberb,  they sat to design the new city, which was already a collection of smaller cities in villages made through a period that started from Chandragupta II to 1803, when the British East India Company occupied Delhi. What he had on hand is a number of structures already built, which he would have to build around, leaving everything as it is, and yet, introducing the distinctive style of architecture borrowed from Europe and Britain.

Dr Swapna Liddle, author of Delhi: 14 Historical Walks, tells the full story, covering the entire period from 375 to 1803, and thereafter, in the most fascinating manner, taking the reader through 14 walks, that not only detail in brief the history of Delhi, during that time, but urge the reader to walk with her, through the famous monuments of that time, the gardens, cities, baulis (water storage tanks), memorable architectural buildings made during that period, mosques and much more. Yet, the book is not a history book, but one that brings alive the history of that time, as if the walker were to be actually passing through that time period, as h/she takes the enchanting walk. No speed, no hurry, just leisurely passing through time and reliving the past, as it were. If you already loved to walk, you will be excited, if you were not a walker, then, be sure you will become one. Although, I must say, for the extremely lazy, the graphic description of each walk is good enough to ‘walk the words’ with Liddle.
Each walk is drawn out and detailed carefully. As the chapter begins, there is a picture followed by a map of all the important points, leading up to the timings, tickets, facilities available on the spot, closest Metro Station, Parking etc, before the walk to each one begins. Relax! You might be holding the book in your hand, but the author does not leave you stumbling back and forth, trying to find, this highlighted point or that on that particular walk. The magic is, she walks with you and guides you through each one, hand-holding you to explore with her, the fine details of each walk. Absorb the easy to read historical background and the periods, emperors under which these structures were made.

My own experience of the book in Shahjahanabad – Oh did you say, you didn’t know what i was talking about? – for the uninitiated, it is Chandni Chawk, as it is called now, I had missed the Jain temples which are believed to have existed from the days of the Mahabharata, the name being derived from the rich Jains who live around the temples, dealing in silver and gold. I was amazed to see the beautiful temples, for, to me, it was always, Chandni Chawk for Parathawali gali, or Jama Masjid, and Kharim’s right opposite Gate # 1 as you descend from the Jama Masjid, the foundation of which was laid in 1605, and took 6 years to complete, and cost Rs 10,00,000 (Rupees Ten Lakh/ $ 1 million).

The romance with the much written about period of Delhi, The Mughal Period (1526 – 1803) almost 3 centuries add a lot to the architectural splendour of Delhi, the most beloved, to me is of course, Humayun’s Tomb.

“As you pass through the gate, you get your first glimpse of the magnificent Humayun’s Tomb...The entrance set into them lead into a total of 124 chambers. In one of them is the grave of Humayun and others house the many graves of family members...”

Awesome! Come let’s discover this and many more, with book in hand. Let’s walk Delhi: 14 Historical Walks by Swapna Liddle


When you are visiting a mosque on this walk, please cover your head with a scarf and leave your leather shoes outside the mosque. In case, you wish to carry them with you, inside, please place the soles together, facing inward and not outward.

About the Author: Dr Swapna Liddle studies history and got her doctorate in 19th Century Delhi, Her interest in Delhi’s monuments started in a casual manner, but have now become a very strong passion to protect these architectural buildings in Delhi. For some time now, she has been leading Heritage Walks arranged by India Habitat Centre and INTACH.

Click here to follow her on Facebook Or follow INTACH Delhi Chapter Walks on Twitter

Publisher: Westland Ltd
Venkat Towers, 165, P.H. Road, Maduravoyal, Chennai 600 095
No. 38/ 10 (New No. 5), Raghava Nagar, New Timber Yard Layout, Bangalore 560 026
Survey No. A - 9, II Floor, Moula Ali Industrial Area, Moula Ali, Hyderabad 500 040
23/ 181, Anand Nagar, Nehru Road, Santacruz East, Mumbai 400 055
4322/ 3 Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi 110 002

Also read about Sufi Sarmad Shaheed HERE