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The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library


On Being Familiar: The vitalism of Frederick Salmon Growse’s architectural improvement of Bulandshahr 1878-1886’, 9th september


Paradoxes abound in Frederick Salmon Growse’s (1837 -- 1893) text titled Indian Architecture of Today as Exemplified in the New Buildings of the Bulandshahr District (1886). On the one hand, Growse, the then district collector of Bulandshahr, wrote in Indian Architecture of Today… about his intimacy with the architectural fabric of the towns of the district. As is evident in the photographs and the texts accompanying them in Indian Architecture of Today…, Growse sought an adequate representational measure of his own familiarity with the architecture of the towns of the Bulandshahr district. On the other hand, even as Growse wrote about his familiarity with the architecture of the towns of the district, he also simultaneously projected himself as an indissociable aspect of the very world with which he was familiar. Indeed, the very bearer of feelings of intimacy was himself constituted, as an architectural agency, in the very heart of his own intimacy. How, then, did Growse become a part of the very world of people and objects that he strove to see? How did the person who sensed become the sensible in Indian architecture of Today…? How, in essence, does one project oneself as an integral bodily part into the very space of the body that one envisages? In this study, then, the speaker strives to explore how the politics of district governance in the latter part of the nineteenth century, or, more specifically, the short duration of collectors’ administerial tenures, provided the very grounds for the emergence of Growse’s difficult and tortuous double vision. More significantly, the talk examines how Growse’s comprehension of Indian architecture as a living, vital art began to have a bearing on his conception of the part he had played in the improvement of the town of Bulandshahr, how Vitalism as an architectural discourse drew Growse into difficult debates on the nature of his own presence within the spaces of the towns of Bulandshahr and Khurja.


Dr. Venugopal Maddipati, an architectural historian, is assistant professor at the School of Design, Ambedkar University, Delhi. He received his B-Arch at the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi and an M.A. and a PhD. in art history at the Department of Art History at the University of Minnesota. He is particularly interested in the architecture of Islamicate societies and nineteenth and twentieth century philosophies of temporality, hospitality, organicism and urban evolution. He has also published essays on themes such as temporality and coercion, in late twentieth century and contemporary art and architecture. He is currently working on a monograph on Gandhi, architecture and ecology in Wardha and an edited volume, with Dr. Sugata Ray at the University of California, Berkeley, on water systems and spatiality in South Asia. He initially worked as an artist and continues to paint.

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