A mesmerizing poet, a captivating novelist, a philosopher, an educationist, Rabindranath Tagore is the man who truly deserves the accolade of the world. This Bengali polymath was the first Non-European to be awarded the Nobel Prize for his literary works. He had a plethora of knowledge on the various field of art, literature and also architecture. He is one of the few personages who stood by the ilk of greatness, mastering in every area.
Apart from his great works in the field of art and literature, he largely contributed to aesthetics and architecture. Tagore’s thoughts on design were based on the principle of ‘More lights and more space,’ and he adopted this philosophy from the Japanese culture of wabi-sabi. He was greatly inspired by this Japanese style of modernistic living after visiting Japan innumerable times.
This concept of wabi-sabi portrayed an essence of rustic simplicity, freshness or quietness molded with serenity or beauty that comes with age. It focused on living amidst nature and in loneliness. Rabindranath Tagore, being a loner, was profoundly influenced by this theme. After returning to India from Japan, he had directly set his feet in Shantiniketan and began experimenting.
Being a modernist and nature-lover himself, Tagore urged his people to follow this Japanese aesthetics of living and not ‘modernize’ as per European ideals. In 1916, Tagore, at a lecture told 3,000 people attending that ‘modernism’ is not a European attire; or in the horrific structures where their children are taught lessons; or in the square houses with shabby walls, holed with windows running parallel and where they are caged for a lifetime. This is not the true aspect of ‘modernism,’ but is purely European architecture. True modernism is synonymous to freedom of the mind and not to slavery. He is a cosmopolitanism and had appealed for pan-Asianism.
Rabindranath Tagore never wanted to disturb or interrupt nature; he designed buildings in such a way that fitted along with nature’s habitat seamlessly. He applied all his designs at Shantiniketan. There were no tall houses at Shantiniketan which showed that this Nobel Laureate had a liking towards small constructions. The houses had bare, matte walls with undertones of grey that gave out a relaxed vibe in parallel to the natural surroundings. Everything was built around organic materials and resources available from the lap of nature. And, keeping in mind the tropical climate there were vast expanses of open space.
Today, what we see at Shantiniketan resembles Tagore’s futuristic vision of modern architecture. The buildings there are divided into three categories: institutional buildings, teacher’s and student’s hostels and Tagore’s residence within the Uttarayan Complex. Around the institutional complexes, there are vast courtyards and verandahs. He also designed small clusters of integrated quarters for the teacher’s of Visva-Bharti with a ’U’-shaped entrance for the interaction between the occupants and the family members.
Tagore’s architectural designs are combined with an essence of pleasant design and utility. And the fact that he never liked dwelling in the same place for a very long time, there were five separate residences of Tagore namely- Udayan, Shyamali, Konarka, Udichi, Punascha along with a rose garden and an artificial pond. His essence of bringing back the Indianess is purely depicted through the buildings of Shantiniketan, in the era where the hegemony of the west dominated. This showed the many-faceted artistic skills in Tagore, that reflected upon the intricacies of the man-environment relationship in this time of modern architecture where man is destroying nature.
This is a small tribute to this great philosopher and futurist, Rabindranath Tagore from StarOm Millenia. StarOm is one of the best real estate developers in Kolkata, who not only build fine homes but dreams too. Happy Rabindra Jayanti!