TraMod TALKS with Indian Architect & Academician Rajendra Kumar

Javad Eiraji Exclusive Talk with New-Delhi Based Architect & Academician Rajendra Kumar

Tradition + Modernity in India

Tradition is an evolving tapestry of beliefs, customs, and values that connects us to both past and future

TraMod AACADEMY, in TraMod TALKS sections, tries to have short-interviews with architects and designers from different countries to discuss the meaning of some keywords such as “Tradition”, “Modernity”, “Identity” and “Culture” and looking for some solutions to create interactions between them. The meaning of mentioned keywords can be different by changing the time, place, geography and the way of design thinking and the TraMod ACADEMY is trying to find a joint point and maybe its effect on contemporary architecture and design of the world. India, as a powerful country in history, culture, science, art and architecture can be one of the main poles which this research filed must be analyzed more and more. Read Javad Eiraji exclusive interview with one of the famous Indian architects and academician Prof. Dr. Rajendra Kumar in latest series of TraMod TALKS

Javad Eiraji: Would you please share a short biography of yourself and your activities with us

Rajendra Kumar: I am architect, curator based in New Delhi, India. I was awarded as ‘Most Admired Education Influencers in India 2022’ and ‘Global Educational Influencer 2020’, ‘Indian Young Achievers Award 2009. I graduated from Chandigarh College of Architecture, India and Post-graduation from Politecnico Di Milano, Italy. I am member of International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP), Netherlands, Council of Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), USA. Received fellowship by Congress for New Urbanism, USA and actively involved in academia and research. I am advisory member of various think tanks of national and international importance, invited members for various projects, talks with global leaders including Prime Ministers, Governors, Ambassadors, Mayors, Policy makers, UN Habitat etc. I was Task Force member for ‘Y20 (Young 20)’engagement group of G20. I am equipped with mixed experiences of varied scale projects, ranging from urban scale to buildings and interiors. Appeared in TV Channels, Radio, Print and Online Media in India and abroad. 100+ invited lectures, publications in national and international conferences. I lectured on many national and international forums on various issues related to cities, social issues, sustainable environment etc. at national and international forums in India, Spain, Hong Kong, South Africa, Slovenia, Italy, Germany, Thailand, Malaysia, Russia, Korea, USA, Taiwan, Poland, Portugal, including Columbia University, New York, Cambridge University, AA London, UK, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, Gdansk University, Poland, and many more

Javad Eiraji: What is the meaning of “Tradition” and how can it be described in architecture

Rajendra Kumar: Tradition and architecture are not relics of the past, but living forces that shape our world today. Though often associated with history and heritage, tradition is an evolving tapestry of beliefs, customs, and values that connects us to both past and future. Architecture is far more than static buildings and monuments; it is the framework around which we structure our lives. Our constructs give form to our ideals, aspirations, and shared culture. Both tradition and architecture are dynamic - they adapt and transform across generations. Through reinterpretation and reinvention, we make them relevant to the present while preserving their essence. Our traditions ground us, yet allow us to grow. The walls we build give us roots as well as wings. Tradition and architecture intertwine to provide continuity amid change. They remind us where we’ve been, and help guide us to where we’re going next. We inherit them from the past, but they exist for us to revision and remake in our own image - for now and for the future. For example, Indian courtyard breathes with the rhythm of daily life. Sunlight dances across weathered brick walls, warming stone floors where bare feet tread. Through open archways, the chatter of neighbors floats on fragrant breezes. The courtyard shelters heritage in its walls, even as it opens to the promise of tomorrow

Javad Eiraji: Is it needed to use past in today`s design? Is it related to Identity? How can we do this mission

Rajendra Kumar : In today's bustling metropolises, the enduring allure of traditional design still captivates the urban imagination. Though ever-changing, our cities are anchored by historic forms, materials and motifs that transport the spirit while rooting us in collective memory. Weathered stone, hand-crafted details and peaked rooflines evoke an earlier era's craftsmanship amid steel and glass. By integrating the old with the new, architects create continuity between past and future, honoring heritage while advancing innovation. In preserving what came before, we build towards the yet-to-come. Today’s architectural language may evolve, but its dialects still whisper of tradition

Javad Eiraji: How do you see Indian contemporary architecture? Do Indian contemporary architects pay attention to past and traditions

Rajendra Kumar : The contemporary architecture scene in India has become a global melting pot, drawing inspiration from diverse design philosophies around the world. As India continues its rapid development, architects are looking inward as well as outward and embracing international influences, blending them with local sensibilities. This cross-pollination has produced innovative new building forms, materials and aesthetics. Indian cities today feature structures that exude a cosmopolitan flair, incorporating elements from modernist, postmodern, sustainable and vernacular styles. Yet they retain a distinctly Indian spirit. Contemporary architects incorporate traditional elements and cultural motifs into fresh, innovative designs. Sleek lines and modern materials meet intricate stonework and hand-carved accents, blending India's rich history with its cosmopolitan present. These dynamic buildings showcase both the heritage and the future of Indian design, seamlessly bridging past and present. Today India has world largest office building, ‘Surat Diamond Bourse’ which is bigger than the Pentagon office building of USA. It makes project listing in Guinness Book record as largest office complex of world. Emerging young practices are at the forefront of this globalized approach, collaborating with international designers while staying rooted in Indian design traditions. The result is a vibrant architectural landscape where ideas flow across borders, are adapted to local contexts and give rise to creative new expressions. Indian architecture has transcended its national boundaries to become a dynamic participant in the global dialogue on contemporary design. Its outward gaze enriches the field as a whole. The architecture of modern India fuses the old with the new

Javad Eiraji: How can new technologies effect the design process of Indian today`s architecture

Rajendra Kumar: The amalgamation of technology and tradition shapes India's architectural landscape today. Ancient structures like the breathtaking Taj Mahal marry ornate stonework with elegant symmetry. Contemporary buildings fuse modern materials like glass and steel with traditional motifs drawn from nature, crafting a visual dialogue between past and present. Information technology enables architects to realize innovative new forms, from the Bangalore International Airport to the sky-piercing Lotus Temple that unfurls like a budding flower. India's rich history and technological future continue to intertwine, creating awe-inspiring edifices that reflect both cultural heritage and creative vision

Javad Eiraji: Do you think this kind of design thinking (Tradition + Modernity) can be focused in academic studies and educations? Is it needed for today architecture of our society

Rajendra Kumar : The interplay between tradition and modernity is on full display in India's architectural education. Students are immersed in the rich history of techniques perfected over centuries while also mastering the latest technologies and design principles. A stroll through any architecture school reveals models of ornate Hindu temples alongside sleek, modernist structures. Today most of Indian institutions’ classrooms filled with 3D printers and VR headsets sit next to drafting studios where students practice hand-drawing arches and domes. The curriculum blends the mathematical principles of traditional architecture as well as with parametric design software. Field trips may visit the ancient stepwells of Rajasthan or other historical evidences in Indian cities one day and the avant-garde buildings of Mumbai and other metropolis the next. This fluidity between past and present pushes students to synthesize timeless forms and aesthetics with contemporary materials and methods. The result is a dynamic new vision of Indian architecture, one that honors enduring traditions while embracing the future

Javad Eiraji: May interactions between tradition and modernity just happen in a special geography or history? Or it can be updated in different locations and periods of time

Rajendra Kumar: India's complex history comes alive in all cities spanning across all India where ancient customs colorfully collide with contemporary life at every corner of Indian geography. Today tradition and modernity in architecture creates a dynamic tension that energizes contemporary design. Ancient forms re-emerge in new materials, while modernist ideas are filtered through a cultural lens, sparking new interpretations. The results are modern buildings that feel simultaneously timeless and of-the-moment. Architects today draw on rich design heritage not through replication, but by allowing it to permeate their creative process. Traditional motifs find fresh expression as filigrees in concrete screens, or rhythms adapted to modular plans. Historic principles of climate response and human-centered spaces are reworked with new technologies. By honoring the past while embracing the future, Indian architects infuse their projects with a spirit at once rooted and visionary. The interplay between old and new enlivens the country's architectural scene with an exhilarating sense of possibility