SAH Blog

  • Notes on the SAH Roundtable, "The Built Environment: Resources for the Next 75 Years"

    Patricia Searl, Editorial and Technical Specialist, ROTUNDA, The University of Virginia Press
    May 4, 2015

    At the 2015 annual conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, members from across the globe could be seen taking notes on paper while juggling their tablets and smartphones—a typical mix of analog and digital practices in a world filled with print and digital media options. On Friday afternoon, a group joined a panel convened by SAH’s Digital Humanities Task Force to imagine and plan for how architects, students, and scholars will be working 75 years from now and in particular, how to prepare the source materials of today for the research environment of the future. 


    • Dianne Harris, Director of the Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities (IPRH) and Professor of Landscape Architecture, Architecture, Art History, and History, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
    • William Whitaker, Curator and Collections Manager of the Architectural Archives   of the School of Design, University of Pennsylvania
    • Ann Baird Whiteside, Librarian and Assistant Dean for Information Services, Frances Loeb Library, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University
    • Tamar Zinguer, Associate Professor of Architecture, The Cooper Union  

    Chair: Abby Smith Rumsey, SAH Board Member, Chair of the Digital Humanities Task Force

    The panelists represented a range SAH members’ interests: pedagogy, libraries and archives, conservation and historic preservation, research and architectural practice.

    Panelists addressed three questions:

    • What is the full scope of resources we need to collect, both digital and analog, to study the built environment?
    • What tools and technologies, such as GIS or text mining, will lead to new understandings and innovative questions?
    • What skills will students, scholars, and practitioners need to work with the resources of the 21st century?

    The first question about the scope of future collections called for speculation about what scholars will be studying in the future. Acknowledging that we simply cannot predict what will interest our successors in 25, 50, let alone 75 years, Dianne Harris noted wryly that we should “keep everything.” But she also noted that the issue of scale will be the critical challenge in the coming decades. Tamar Zinguer and Bill Whitaker noted despite the existing wealth of documentation, we also should be creating some where none now exists—in particular, documenting architects’ practice and even how buildings are used. Creating documentation of a design studio’s working practices, for example, has become relatively easy, considering everyone carries a video camera on their smart phone these days. Graduate students and postdocs could be trained in video documentation and oral history to capture contemporary practices.

    The panel acknowledged the need to step up collecting born-digital sources, as that is the default mode of documentation now in text, image, sound, and also in the design process itself (CAD). The mention of proprietary software used by design firms prompted expressions of dismay about how to deal with rapidly changing software formats and complicated analytical and presentation packages, such as GIS. They are expensive to handle today and will be difficult to render in the future. This is not a problem that the field can solve on its own, but it is widely shared by other disciplines and in professional and for-profit sectors as well. We should look to those sectors for solutions to what is destined to be a universal access problem within a decade or two. That said, it will be very important that digital archives exist alongside complementary inventories of physical artifacts (such as rubber stamps and 35mm slides) for a more comprehensive view of architectural practice. The tools and media of the past will themselves become subjects of study.  

    Ann Whiteside noted that scale—the sheer size of the documentary record—is far from the only challenge the profession will face. Due to the overwhelming amount of data generated each day, the field will need to sort through what new genres, such as blogs and websites, have long-term scholarly value. Moreover, in the digital realm, there’s virtually nothing created that does not come entangled in a thicket of rights issues. These are primarily copyright issues, pertaining to the ownership of underlying legal rights for created works. At present, being able to consult such documents online is virtually impossible. The rights issues will be sorted out over time. But it is difficult to commit to collecting vast amounts of materials that are complicated to manage when their current accessibility to researchers is moot.

    The panels discuss the issues of which tools and technologies to use together with the skills necessary to do research in the digital age—again underscoring that “the digital age” will always be a hybrid environment a mix of analog and digital sources and skills. All panelists called for widening the field’s collaboration with people in other disciplines who are developing, using, and also having to archive suites of digital tools and technologies. Everyone anticipated the growth of scholarly teams to investigate and publish research topics, collaborations that will extend well beyond the field of architectural history to include archaeologists, programmers and software designers, IT professionals, materials scientists, other cultural historians, and so forth. Collaboration is both a resource to use as skill that needs to be cultivated.

    Whiteside and Harris suggested that collaborative partnerships and shared collections (such as SAHARA) are likely to be the only practical way to handle the exponential growth of data. Whitaker talked about the benefits of large data sets and current digital tools, such as analyzing the DNA of building materials, to inspire new scholarly and professional insights—yes, we will be working with geneticists as well!—but worried about the potentially prohibitive cost and complexity of their use. Zinguer alluded to the data visualizations used by surgeons and airline pilots, which are able to quickly and effectively communicate vast amounts of data. Humanists, she argued, should borrow from the perceptual learning technologies in those fields and engage in similar training so their work with data becomes second nature. Echoing Harris and Whiteside, she further encouraged those in architectural history to look outside their discipline and forge alliances with others in the social sciences, computer science, and other professions.  

    At present, the profession has difficulty acknowledging and appropriately rewarding collaborative work, no matter how significant the results of collaborations may be. As Harris noted, this obstacle is a remnant of the traditional nature of academic work, in which many have entered specifically due to the prospect of working independently. However, there does seem to be a cultural shift towards collaboration, which must be acknowledged in teaching practices and by the administration. To address this very issue, SAH is collaborating with the College Art Association (CAA) on developing criteria for assessing digital work, and Abby Rumsey noted that collaboration looms large on their agenda. Panelists were unanimous in agreeing that academics must teach themselves and their students to be effective collaborators, especially in dealing with those in very different disciplines, such as engineering and computer science. 

    Harris discussed the imperative of teaching students how to think critically about digital collections. While the current generation of professors have lived through a transition from an analog to an analog-and-digital world, their students have not, and may lack the perspective to distinguish the digital artifact from "the real thing." For that reason, she argues, students must learn how to digitize and curate collections themselves, so they can recognize and consider what is lost in translation, and how those omissions can be made transparent. Zinguer added that students must also learn the "mastery of language," (i.e., good reading, writing and peer-editing). Skills in reading and drafting plans, she argues, including those on created on older software and on paper, are fading and must not be lost. 

    From a librarian/archivist's perspective, Whiteside argued that learning the necessary technology is far less of a problem for libraries and scholars than a solid understanding of copyright law—to which the audience vocally concurred. To confront the scale of the problem, Harvard has implemented a copyright "First Responder" hotline as part of the services provided by their libraries. In addition to legal issues, Whiteside believes that librarians need a stronger understanding of metadata and data management skills (beyond bibliographic citations) and must think increasingly with a mindset towards collaboration and preservation. 

    The panel was in agreement that the role of scholars, archivists, and students is changing too quickly to master here and now. Each acknowledged their struggle with new roles and responsibilities, and the tug-of-war between excitement and apprehension over what the current generation will leave behind for their discipline. While there were many valuable suggestions offered to the questions posed, the session ultimately underscored the monumental nature of the task. Adjustment to new ways of working demands the attention and commitment of each generation as they not only make their careers, but shape the field as they do so. We should anticipate that each generation of students will arrive with a new set of technological skills but still lacking in the critical skills of architectural literacy that will become more important in undergraduate and graduate education, rather than less, in the next 75 years. The complicated processes of adaptation to and adoption of new information technologies will be one of trial and error, in which our students should be encouraged to experiment, even at the risk of failure, in order to learn and share own knowledge with others. The time to begin is now.

    Go comment!
  • Bury the Lantern: The Other Side of Promoting Farm Electrification

    Sarah Rovang
    Apr 23, 2015

    In the late 1930s and early 1940s, numerous farm communities across the United States gathered to enact lantern funerals, the ritualized interring of antiquated kerosene lamps. Cloaked in the guise of mourning, these parodic rites were actually celebrations of the arrival of electric lighting in the rural landscape. In some cases, the burial plot was marked with a tombstone such as the one seen in Figure 1, which explains that the “coal-oil lamp” has been “abolished for all time” by the advent of electricity. In this example, the tombstone was created for an electric cooperative receiving funding from the Rural Electrification Administration (or REA). REA had been founded in 1935 under the New Deal to promote the expedient spread of electricity to America’s farms and rural communities. At the time of its founding, only around 11% of US farms were connected to central station electricity. To address this lack, REA developed a system of making loans directly to farming cooperatives to fund the extension of existing electric lines or pay for the construction of new generating facilities.

    Figure 1: Tombstone for a kerosene lamp. The epitaph reads, “Here lies a coal-oil lamp. Buried here May 3, 1941 by the Adams Electric Cooperative as a symbol of the drudgery and toil which its member-families bore far longer than was necessary or right but which, with the energization of their own power system are now abolished for all time.” Image Credit: Record Group 221, Records of the Rural Electrification Administration, Department of Agriculture. Rural Electrification Administration. Photographic Prints of Electrification and Telephone Improvements in the Rural United States, 1936 - 1964. National Archives Identifier: 540048, HMS Entry Number: 221-P.

    At the upcoming SAH 2015 Annual Conference, as part of the panel “Architecture in a New Light” I presented a paper that explores how REA both encouraged and co-opted rural enthusiasm for electric lighting in its efforts to modernize the landscape of the American farm. This paper developed as a natural outgrowth of my dissertation, which examines the architecture and landscapes of rural electrification in the United States from 1935 to 1945. Combing through REA’s papers at the National Archives in Kansas City, I encountered dozens of pamphlets, advertisements, and wiring guides that constitute a print media discourse around rural lighting. REA and its partner corporations, including General Electric and Westinghouse, recognized that electric illumination represented a major transformation of farm life. In these publications, which date from the late 1930s and 1940s, lighting is shown as the harbinger of further electric modernization, part of a larger matrix of electric devices that comprise a comprehensive vision of all-electric farm living. This discourse of rural electric lighting and its promises for farm modernization more broadly are the focuses of my SAH paper. When I was invited to write this blog entry, I thought it would be interesting to examine the flip side—not the lionization of electricity, but the vilification of kerosene.  

    REA’s promotion of electric lighting was part of a institutional practice known as “load-building,” or encouraging farmers to adopt a range of electrified devices in order to ensure that cooperatives were using enough electricity for the government’s loans to be fruitful. Beyond aspiring to recoup government loans, REA hoped to spur the technological modernization of American farmsteads on a larger scale. In line with previous rural reform efforts, REA sought to bring the farmhouse up to an urban standard and to rationalize the farmstead following the efficient model of  industrial production.[1] In REA publications, electric light was used as a synecdoche for technological modernity on the farm—a literal and figurative “enlightenment”of farm life. By contrast, the “old coal-oil lamp” was cast as the antithesis of these ideas.

    In reality, the transition from kerosene to electric light was one of the most significant technological upgrades enabled by electrification. Many farmers already had access to other energy technologies that did not require central station electricity, such as batteries, liquid petroleum gas, and gasoline that powered radios, stoves, and engines. The switch to electricity from these technologies certainly represented a change, but not the same dramatic improvement that electric lighting offered over its predecessor. In the late 1930s, the majority of American agricultural populations still relied on kerosene lanterns for light both inside the farmhouse and on the farm. Dirty, arduous to maintain, and dangerous, these oil-burning lamps became a kind of symbol, as the tombstone epitaph in Figure 1 suggests, of all the “drudgery and toil” of pre-electrification farm living. One study by the American Society of Electrical Engineers Committee on Uses of Electric Light in Agriculture found that electric light saved farmers an hour and a half a day on average doing their chores, halving the required time with a coal-oil lamp.[2]

    Figure2leftFigure2rightFigure 2: (left) Farmhouse Floor Plan with outlets and lighting, (right) Living Room lighting and wiring diagram showing light switches and convenience outlets. Image Credit: Planning Your Farmstead Wiring and Lighting. Washington, D.C: U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Rural Electrification Administration, 1946.

    Additionally, depictions of rural spaces illuminated by kerosene lanterns were set in contrast to those bathed in the steady, even glow of electric light. Illustrations, such as the one in Figure 2, link electric lighting to a new kind of spatial order, showing the farm as a series of circuit diagrams as farm families were urged to plan ahead for future lighting purchases and additional electrified conveniences. The spaces of kerosene, by contrast, were shown as cluttered, dim, and uncomfortable. For example, the cartoon seen below, captioned “Born Thirty Years Too Soon,” depicts a family attempting to enjoy nighttime leisure, all relying on the glow provided by a single kerosene lamp (Figure 3). As one family member precariously hoists the lamp to search for a misplaced book, the rest of the family is thrown into darkness and frustration. The relatively small sphere of illumination provided by a single kerosene lamp was also dramatized in filmmaker Joris Iven’s 1940 documentary for REA, Power and the Land, which tells the story of one family’s transition to electric power. The first half of the film, which depicts pre-electrification life on the farm, charts the daytime task of scouring and maintaining kerosene lamps and gloomy, atmospheric evenings huddled around a single lamp (Figure 4). Although electric bulbs were in fact 16-20 times brighter than the kerosene lamps they replaced, REA reinforced and even exaggerated the magnitude of this change in print media and film, conflating kerosene with pre-modern spaces and electric lighting with modern ones.[3]

    Figure 3: J.R. Williams, “Born Thirty Years Too Soon,” Rural Electrification News 1, no. 12 (August 1936): 24.  

    Figure 4: Film still from Power and the Land (director Joris Ivens for REA, 1940). Image Credit: Record Group 221, Records of the Rural Electrification Administration, Department of Agriculture. Rural Electrification Administration. Photographic Prints of Electrification and Telephone Improvements in the Rural United States, 1936 - 1964. National Archives Identifier: 540048, HMS Entry Number: 221-P.

    Personifications of the kerosene lantern, such as the one in Figure 5 or the actual lanterns buried as part of mock funerals went even further, suggesting that farmers who still burned kerosene embodied negative rural stereotypes of being behind-the-times, backwards, or stuck in their ways. Yet the burying of the kerosene lamp did not mean the end to this technology. Despite all of this negative publicity, most farm families still kept kerosene lanterns in case of a power outage, a relatively common occurrence during the early years of electrification. As with much of the electrification process, rural America’s conversion to electric light was selective and gradual.

    Figure 5
    : Berg, “Gosh,” reprinted from the Indianapolis Times in Rural Electrification News 1, no. 7 (March 1936): 22.

    Recommended Reading

    Adams, Jane. The Transformation of Rural Life: Southern Illinois, 1890-1990. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

    Brown, D. Clayton. Electricity for Rural America: The Fight for the REA. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1980.

    Fitzgerald, Deborah K. Every Farm a Factory: The Industrial Ideal in American Agriculture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003.

    Jellison, Katherine. Entitled to Power: Farm Women and Technology, 1913-1963. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.

    Kline, Ronald R. Consumers in the Country: Technology and Social Change in Rural America. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

    Nye, David E. Electrifying America: Social Meanings of a New Technology, 1880-1940. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1990.

    Tobey, Ronald C. Technology As Freedom: The New Deal and the Electrical Modernization of the American Home. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

    Sarah RovangSarah Rovang is a Ph.D. candidate in the History of Art & Architecture at Brown University. Her dissertation Modernization and Architecture Under the Rural Electrification Administration, 1935–1945,explores the intersection of electricity, architecture, and the rural landscape in the United States during the New Deal. Her work has been supported by fellowships from the New England Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians and the Wolfsonian Museum in Miami.

    [1] See Kline, Jellison, and Fitzgerald in Recommended Reading below.

    [2] “Electric Lights Save Farm an Hour and a Half a Day in Doing Chores,” Rural Electrification News 4, no. 7 (March 1939): 22.

    [3] Lawrence C. Porter, “Good Lighting Inside and Outside the Farmhouse,” Rural Electrification News 3, no. 1 (September 1937): 3.  

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  • Northern India: The Golden Triangle

    Amber N. Wiley, 2013 Brooks Travelling Fellow
    Apr 8, 2015

    I knew ahead of time that Delhi would be crazy, but I was not prepared for the amount of crazy. Perhaps it is because I chose to stay in one of the most congested portions of an already congested city. Today Paharganj is known for its bazaar, as it was almost 400 years ago. It is described as “chaotic, noisy, and dirty,” on the Delhi Tourism website, and is commonly referred to as the “traveller’s ghetto.” It was exhilarating at the same time that it was exhausting. I had done enough online research to know what to expect, but there is not much one can do in terms of preparation for that type of environment. I had a hotel room with no external windows, which was fine since the decibel level of noise pollution on Arakashan Road was outstanding, even for India. Despite all of that, there was a certain magic to Arakashan Road, as hotel sign advertisements lit up the night sky like Broadway.

    Delhi is a highly fragmented, frenetic city, with old and new quarters existing in stark juxtaposition. As a World Monuments Fund brochure proclaims, “Delhi is not one city, but many.”1 Since Paharganj traditionally lay outside the old city walls it is a transitional, interstitial space. In Paharganj one is a short bajaj ride from Connaught Place (1929-1934), the commercial complex designed to act as a nodal point between Old and New Delhi. It still serves this purpose today.

    Figure 1. 1911 map of Shahjahanabad, noted as “Modern Delhi” in the map, but known as “Old Delhi” today. Paharganj is slightly southwest of the city. Lutyen’s Delhi has yet to be designed and constructed south of Shahjahanabad. Source: John Murray, A Handbook for Travellers in India, Burma, and Ceylon. (London: J. Murray; Calcutta: Thacker, Spink, & Co., 1911). Flickr Commons.

    I was amazed by the pollution in Delhi. I could see it when touching down at Indira Gandhi International Airport. I could feel it when my eyes watered incessantly. An India Today magazine I picked up in the airport had a cover story entitled “Death in the Air.” The Editor-in-Chief, Aroon Purie proclaims “dust from construction, exhaust fumes from vehicles, coal plant and factory emissions, diesel generators, stubble burning in fields, garage fires, and makeshift cooking appliances have made air pollution a public emergency.”2 The articles discussed the rise in the mortality, cancer, and respiratory disorder rates related to the situation in Delhi, and in India more broadly.

    There is no need to enhance a photograph taken in Delhi with a filter. With today’s preponderance of digital photography posted online through sites like Instagram, fancy photo editing techniques are in common amongst the tech savvy population. Filters add atmosphere, hues, tints, and tones, “romantic” noise and dust. They add a special dreamlike ambiance to the image. But in Delhi, there is no need for a filter. The smog from the pollution does that just fine. It is lovely in a deadly, sad way.

    Figure 2. India Gate by Edwin Lutyens, New Delhi (1921-1931). Natural “atmospheric filter” courtesy of smog.

    Incredible !ndia: Delhi and Agra

    Since my time in Delhi would be much shorter than my stays in other major cities along this trip, and since I had a friend meet me in the city I elected to take packaged tours to significant architecture sites. Normally I would do something more organic, wandering my way through the streets and often stumbling upon places that I had not even planned to visit, but time was of the essence. The packaged tour kept me from exploring Delhi in a more in-depth manner, but it was necessary with the limited amount of time I had in the city. The truth of the matter is, I would not have extended my time in Delhi.

    The city tour was arranged by the Incredible !ndia affiliate in my hotel. India has, in comparison to many of the destinations I have visited on this fellowship, a very succinct and smooth tourism industry machine. Incredible !ndia offices with a selection of maps, brochures, and tours have been highly visible in every state I have visited – Maharashtra, Goa, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan – as well as the National Capital Region. This makes the touring aspect of India so much easier than Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, and Mexico.

    In addition to the Incredible !ndia marketing efforts by the Government of India, the permanent delegation to UNESCO submitted “Delhi – A Heritage City” to be included in the list of World Heritage sites. The World Monuments Fund already laid the promotional groundwork, developing the Delhi Heritage Route.3 The Delhi Heritage Route was created in advance of the XIX Commonwealth Games of 2010 to promote tourism in the massively sprawling city. The Delhi Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) developed much of the content for the heritage route and contributed to the publication of 20 informational booklets and 18 walking tours that linked the sites together. It is an impressive promotional collection. Unfortunately most of this literature, which is free and accessible through the World Monuments Fund website, is not found at the sites themselves (I believe it is because these are not money-making ventures). One must know where to look for the information beforehand.

    My pre-arranged city tour started in Old Delhi, or Shahjahanabad. Cultural scholar Shu Yamane states:

    Shahjahanabad was built as the capital of the Mughal Empire, India's most powerful and largest Islamic dynasty. This makes it one of the most pertinent cities for the study of urban formation in the Islamic region.4

    This is one of the reasons I am slightly regretful about not spending more time in Old Delhi. Jyoti Hosagrahar’s JSAH article “Mansions to Margins: Modernity and the Domestic Landscapes of Historic Delhi, 1847-1910,” also made me question whether or not I should have spent more time in the area. Her article details the evolution of the haveli form in Old Delhi from the grand palaces of the elite to sub-divided and multifunctional new spaces for the people:

    In colloquial usage, the word haveli in Delhi has remained a signature of traditional aristocratic living. However, in its many variations the haveli was not a timeless or changeless house form. From princely mansion to modest dwelling and then into a tenement house or a more rational and efficiently designed house, the haveli has undergone a variety of metamorphoses.5

    Granted, these kinds of changes might not be obvious to someone walking through the neighborhood. It might take actually going in and doing more in-depth analysis of the buildings themselves. In the end, for me, it was important to know about the urban fabric and history of Shahjahanabad even if I was not able to spend ample time there myself.

    Figure 3. Jama Masjid (1644-1656), Shahjahanabad.

    These issues are the cursed part of taking a pre-arranged tour. The blessing is seeing countless (although singular) sites in one day. In Shahjahanabad we visited the Jama Masjid and Red Fort, two outstanding examples of monumental architecture of the former Mughal Empire. The use of red sandstone at Jama Masjid and the Red Fort would prove to be a common thread with architectural monuments throughout the region.

    The rest of the day tour included Humayan’s Tomb, the Lotus Temple, and Qutb Minar. All the sites were extremely impressive in their own ways, and we could have gone to more locations if we did not linger so long earlier in the day. The Humayan Tomb (1565-1572) complex was amazing. The title of the site only represents a fragment of the wonders situated there. One can get a sense of the growth of the complex, and see changes that come as a result of additions and subtractions. Some are drastic, like the wall that was blasted through to create an entrance to the Humayan Tomb portion of the complex.

    Figure 4.  Isa Khan Tomb (1547-1548). Photograph illustrates recent restorative work done on building.

    One is greeted by the Isa Khan Tomb upon entering into the complex. It is located off to the right of the central walkway, though it predates the Humayan Tomb. The building is compact, the design is all encompassing. It truly represents what art historians would call a gesamtkuntswerk – if art historians chose to use the term for anything other than Western art and architecture. Isa Khan’s Tomb underwent major renovation with aid from the World Monuments Fund. This project built on a pre-existing public-private partnership between the Aga Khan Trust for Culture Urban Renewal Initiative, Archaeological Survey of India, Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The work at the greater Humayan Tomb complex is significant enough that it should be followed over the next few decades. It is a great case study in public-private partnerships, preservation as a means for a larger urban renewal process (with a social equity factor and without the negative connotations that we have in the States), and craftsman training that spans different countries. It is also important as a shining example that history is not dead, and that solid “facts” may change. Archaeological work at the Isa Khan Tomb complex revealed a sunken garden, one that predates any others known in India, changing the chronology and evolution of the garden type.

    Figure 5. Entering the Taj Mahal (1648) garden complex Agra.

    Before I embarked on this trip I always considered Mughal architecture to be typical of what one finds in the whole of India, more so than the Buddhist and Hindu shrines I had seen in central India. My mind’s eye envisioned all of India through an Indo-Islamic lens. My time in Delhi, Agra, and later on in Rajasthan, was rewarding in a sense that I was seeing things that looked familiar to me – especially the Taj Mahal. This is because if and when architectural surveys make a foray into Indian architecture, the Taj is the symbol celebrated as representative of India. What this trip showed me is that it is representative of a specific time and place in India. The diversity of the Indian subcontinent is overwhelming – the differences between the states and cities make India a powerful and compelling place to study not just Mughal architecture, but Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Rajput, Portuguese, and British.

    Princely Rajasthan

    Depending on how you choose to do the Golden Triangle it could be equilateral or obtuse. Equilateral = Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. Obtuse includes the addition of Udaipur. After my time in Delhi and Agra I took a quick flight to Jaipur in the princely state of Rajasthan. I took a train from Jaipur to Udaipur, and then flew back to Delhi and off to Vietnam (more about Vietnam in my next post).

    Figure 6. Golden Triangle Google Map. Clockwise from top: sites in Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur. Bottom left cluster of sites are located in Udaipur.

    Tourism in Jaipur and Udaipur was another well-oiled machine. Careful maintenance was evident in the City Palace (1729-1732). The complex housed several unobtrusive shops, and every detail in presentation was considered. The complex is managed by a trust that includes members of the royal family, and is used as both a museum and a residence.

    Figure 7. Ridhi Sidhi Pol. Four gates that form the entrance to the inner courtyard that leads to Chandra Mahal in the City Palace, Jaipur. These gates represent the four seasons and various Hindu gods.

    Other major monuments of Jaipur are easy to reach by foot, so I visited the Jantar Mantar and Hawa Mahal the same day I visited City Palace. The city of Jaipur, the City Palace and the Jantar Mantar are carefully preserved testaments to the deep cultural and scientific interests of Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, who founded the city in 1727. The layout of the streets of the old city of Jaipur was based on the Vastu Purusha Mandala, creating a grid-like pattern that is still evident in the historic center. The Jantar Mantar (originally Yantra Mantra, meaning Instruments and Formulae) in Jaipur is one of a set of five astronomical observation sites that Sawai Jai Singh created throughout India to act as:

    A meeting point for different scientific cultures, and [give] rise to widespread social practices linked to cosmology. [They were] also a symbol of royal authority, through [their] urban dimensions, [their] control of time, and [their] rational and astrological forecasting capacities.6

    The sculptural quality of the observatory in Jaipur is poetically evocative. Sculptor Isamu Noguchi visited both the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur and in Delhi in 1949 and 1960. The Isamu Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, New York, currently has an exhibit entitled “Noguchi as Photographer: The Jantar Mantars of Northern India” that highlights the sculptor’s photographs of these cosmological wonders. The show runs until May 31. It looks fascinating, and I hope SAH members in the area will take the time to visit the exhibit to see the complexes through the master sculptor's eyes.7

    Figure 8. Screenshot of Isamu Noguchi Museum website.

    I also visited both the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur and Delhi. Since the modern city of Delhi grew around the Jantar Mantar complex it is easily overlooked, standing in the shadows of skyscrapers, markets, and the buzz of Connaught Place. The Jantar Mantar in Jaipur is better preserved due to its proximity to the royal enclosure. While it is easy to appreciate the observatories for their sculptural value, it is much more difficult to understand them for their scientific value. So much of the ancient practice of astronomy and observation has been lost to our culture, as we rely on our smart phones and hi-tech watches to tell us the time of day and to predict the weather, sunrise, sunset, and cycles of the sun and moon. Both observatory sites could benefit from multimedia interpretations to demonstrate how each of the various instruments within the complexes work.

    In all, the Golden Triangle does not disappoint. It is as romantic and magical as the advertisements proclaim. The realities of the growing metropolis of Delhi, however, are hard to ignore. At the same time that the countless public-private partnerships are improving the tourist experience in the city, there needs to be an even greater effort in abating the pollution and traffic issues that plague the city. There is no doubt that visitors to Delhi would spend more time, more money, and discover the “off the beaten path” sites in places like Shahjahanabad if a week in the city were more tolerable. But the concerns about the environment are not only about attracting tourists – they need to address the quality of living in the city in an inclusive manner for residents and visitors alike. In addition to the health concerns, the pollution creates a real threat to the vitality of the same cultural monuments the tourism board is trying to promote.

    H. Allen Brooks Travelling Fellowship Google Map

    Recommended Readings

    Salahudin Ahmed, “Jantar Mantar, Jaipur: Implementing the Management Plan,” Context: Building, Living, and Natural 10 no. 2 (Winter 2013/Spring 2014): 141-148

    Catherine B. Asher, “Jaipur: City of Tolerance and Progress,” South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 37 no. 3 (2014): 410-430

    Balkrishna V. Doshi, “The City of Jaipur,” Architecture + Design 5 no. 2 (January/February 1989): 96-104

    Shuji Funo, Naohiko Yamamoto, and Mohan Pant, “Space Formation of Jaipur City, Rajasthan, India: An Analysis on City Maps (1925-28) made by Survey of India,” Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering 1 no. 1 (March 2002): 261-269

    Oleg Grabar, “From Dome of Heaven to Pleasure Dome,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 49 no. 1 (March 1990): 15-21

    John D. Hoag, “The Tomb of Ulugh Beg and Abdu Razzaq at Ghazni, A Model for the Taj Mahal,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 27 no. 4 (December 1968): 234-248

    Susan N. Johnson-Roehr, “Centering the Chrbgh: The Mughal Garden as Design Module for the Jaipur City Plan,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 72 no. 1 (March 2013): 28-47 

    Clay Lancaster, “A Critique on the Taj Mahal,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 15 no. 4 (December 1956): 7-11

    K. K. Muhammed, “World Heritage and Archaeological Excavations: Fatehpur Sikri,” Context: Building, Living, and Natural 10 no. 2 (Winter 2013/Spring 2014): 95-102

    Vikramaditya Prakash, “Between Objectivity and Illusion: Architectural Photography in the Colonial Frame,” Journal of Architectural Education 55 no. 1 (September 2001): 13-20

    Sugata Ray, “Colonial Frames, ‘Native’ Claims: The Jaipur Economic and Industrial Museum,” Art Bulletin 96 no. 2 (June 2014): 196-212

    Martin Reinhold, “Local Stone (A Fragment),” Architectural Design Special Issue: Made in India 77, no. 6 November/December 2007Kazi Ashraf, ed.: 56-59

    Siddhartha Sen, “Between Dominance, Dependence, Negotiation, and Compromise: European Architecture and Urban Planning Practices in Colonial India,” Journal of Planning History 9 no. 4 (2010): 203–231

    Jyoti P. Sharma, “Mughal Gardens of the Indian Subcontinent and the Colonial Legacy: The Treatment of Delhi's Shalamar Bagh,” Journal of Landscape Architecture 4 no. 2 (2009): 32-47

    Patwant Singh, “Sir Edwin Lutyens and the Building of New Delhi,” ICON (Winter 2002/2003): 38-43

    Giles Tillotson, “The Jaipur Exhibition of 1883,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Series 3, 14, 2 (2004), pp. 111–126

    1. INTACH Delhi Chapter, Rashtrapati Bhawan and the Central Vista (2012), 1.

    2. Aroon Purie, “From the Editor-in-Chief,” India Today (March 16, 2015)

    3. World Monuments Fund, Delhi Heritage Route website.

    4. Shu Yamane, Shuji Funo, Takashi Ikejiri, “Space Formation and Transformation of the Urban Tissue of Old Delhi, India,” Journal of Asian Architecture and Building Engineering (November 2008): 217.

    5. Jyoti Hosagrahar, “Mansions to Margins: Modernity and the Domestic Landscapes of Historic Delhi, 1847-1910,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 60 no. 1 (March 2001): 42.

    6. UNESCO, Jantar Mantar website.

    7. Disclaimer: I am a huge Noguchi fan, I collected the postal stamps when they came out, and I would love to go to this exhibit myself but I can’t. PLEASE go for me! Whoever you are! And report back.

    Go comment!
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