The Role Of Architecture In Nation Building


Humanity lives in an eternal desire to leave its immortal echoes throughout its history. These echoes are not to be simply viewed in retrospect; they are fundamental to our time and define our civilisation at any given moment, justifying our very sense of being human. However, this process seems futile since we are mortal, but we wish to be eternal. This near-perpetual war for existence sustains itself through the means of fluid gamut of structures that define our experience of living, but in truth (and paradoxically)… it exists in retrospect. Throughout time, architecture has persisted as one of the most profoundly important prototype of our culture. We see each building revealing the story of the time, and how that iteration of culture wished to project itself to the future. However, with all this weight to manifest itself and its creations as incessant, describing architecture as a mere synthesis of ‘art’ and ‘science’ seems redundant. Architecture is not just mere creation of inanimate objects, but rather a multi-faceted gemstone that expands our sense of human possibility — they shape our very experience of who and where we are in the world. Architecture, a combination of technology and art is equipped with the technology necessary to satisfy development needs and, at the same time, it is provided with the intellectual and imaginative ability to perceive and then translate into technologically sound structures concepts related to national consciousness. However, neither technology nor beauty alone can be considered as architecture’s exclusive concern. Of equal or greater importance are harmony, quality, and functionality which are — or should be — clearly influenced by factors inherent in the culture and geography of a nation, such as the customs, climate, topography and natural landscape which are all determinants of natural consciousness . In this respect whether passive or active, it is bound by universal as well as local values, so it is both international and national — or even nationalistic — in its orientation.

Nation building and developing nationalism

Nation building is a normative concept that invites a lot of ambiguity. The term can be associated with forces striving for political, social, economic and cultural freedom and undertaking its development. The gateway towards developing a nation is cultivating a sense of unity or nationalism. The unity of a nation derives motivation from various aspects of a shared collective and collective sharing; be it language, territory, history, cultural patrimony; yet the very expression of this inclusive unity is predicated on its divisive character to be distinctive, and exclusive. Architecture orders space and in that process embodies the power to construe. The construal of nationalism in architecture ,be it apprehension of space, material form and landscape leads to sense of inclusivity and coexistence of pluralistic culture respecting each other’s identity, dignity, freedom and public participation.

Rise of modernistic architecture and ‘national identity’

The correlation of nation and architecture started to receive attention in the sixteen century. With the introduction to modernistic architecture, states unearthed a way to epitomize nationhood, which was generally conceptualized as being rooted in remote antiquity and grounded in cultural uniqueness. Modernism, the symbol of modernity, became a preferred means to project ‘national identity’ and bring international recognition. For developed nations it simply meant to showcase dominance and sovereignty to the other super-powers. But for the newly liberated third world countries, modernity became the nation’s new identity: something that informed the nation’s new sense of self and direct people’s imagination. Grandiose modernist buildings served as a visible representation of a developing nation’s capacity to equal the developed (oppressive) nation on its own terms. Second, stylistic differentiation served as an important tactic in the art of identity creation. Carefully manipulated built forms played a significant role in promoting a corresponding identity in terms of national culture.

Impact of modernistic architecture on India

After catching a whiff of modern movement in architecture in the 1950s the newly liberated, optimistic passionate self-consciously ‘modern’ India began to build. This was proposed as an alternate civilizational unity in a fractious time. This movement also offered India a possibility of meeting its needs and participating alongside industrialized nations in the common future that would restore India’s greatness. The movement raised a glimmer of hope and a sense of national identity after suffering the oppression of the colonial rule. Adoption of a modernism for the design of Chandigarh demonstrated the determination of the Nehruvian regime to wrap the Indian constitution with an explicitly secular code. Being a modernist rather than a “Sikh” or “Hindu” city, Chandīgarh served as a visible negation of former colonizers. The plan of Chandīgarh sought to tease off the central axis, “as if the spatial symbolism of the democratic power in relation to executive power was reconfigured rather than recovered”. Chandigarh was the confidence-inspiring evidence that radically new architecture was conceivable in India and, moreover, that it could actually be built. Nehru famously said,” Chandigarh was, thus, more than just a symbol of the modernity and associated democratic institutions of the new India. It was to be a catalyst for the real changes in thinking that would enable India’s own professional experts to re-conceive the physical and institutional forms of a modern nation ‘unfettered by the traditions of the past’.” Thus through the lens of Chandīgarh architecture generated an interest of architects and planners abroad and positioned India on a global platform.

Additional pragmatic considerations

Finally, one cannot ignore some more realistic factors that determine the role of architecture in national development such as economic, socio-cultural and technological requirements and development, etc. Architecture can be utilized as a catalyst to stimulate the tourism development in particular regions. The characteristic, emblematic architecture can be a travel destination itself. These attract masses of tourists and increase the income of the place. Buildings and their architectural expression have considerable influence on local economy. Structural design is also used a device of behavioural economics. Consumers driven designed commercial spaces through deliberately conceived marketing strategies generates consumer need states. Lastly, architecture plays a substantial role in a corporate architecture. Currently architecture performs a momentous role in the complex process of building the firms’ corporate identities. So called “theme-objects” are formed, usually owned by companies, where corporation’s branding history and development of the flagship products is presented. Architecture of such buildings – through their original form – must be perceptible, explicitly identifiable with the particular brand and testify the extreme quality of the brand’s products. This all leads to growing economy which yields an unprecedented change in the city’s outlook. Architecture and city planning also affects socio-cultural imprint of a city. The spatial experiences of a built environment can alter the way of living of its residents and can be exploited to nudge them in the right direction. For example, research suggests that “by improving the quality, size, quantity of housing, and improving the quality of neighbourhoods in lower income households will have a positive effect in reducing criminality and ill-health and improving educational attainment.”


One can consider architecture as an integrating factor in local community. Architecture can allude to the history and context of a place, enhance its identity. It reflects the values the local inhabitants identify with. It increases people’s attachment to a place they live in. Such circumstances expedite self-confidence and belief in opportunities. Architecture has become an inherent element of the economic strategies constructed to trigger off a definite financial result. The intentional creation of everyday living space becomes a catalyst for effective socioeconomic transformation. However, artificial image of a space formed with no relation to the real, multidimensional context of place, might not be accepted by the locals and by that be excluded from everyday usage as an empty gap in the urban city structure. Rather than using architecture for glorification, as an expression of vanity of the ruling class and the dominant religious sentiments, it should be treated as a multi-dimensional space, focussing on its ‘human essence’, physical environment and its functionality. With the current world scenario there is an urgent need for architects to take a deeper dive and focus not just on urbanization and migration but on overlapping issues, like land use, living space, mass housing, and design that can be operationalized. The issues of climate change accompanying greater urbanization also pose a unique set of complications linked to health, access to water and sanitation, and increased resiliency. In the end I would like to say that when architecture amalgamates ecology, economy and social interest to help people and places to regain self-sufficiency, it becomes a catalyst for a cultural and economic transformation which ultimately leads to nation building.


  • Lu, Duanfang, “Third World Modernism”. Routledge, 2011. Google Books,
  • Scriver, Peter, and Srivastva Amit.” India: Modern Architecture in History”. Reaktion Books, 2015. Google Books,
  • Shrestha, Bijaya, “Role and Responsibility of Architects in Nation Building of Nepal” (Pdf File), Academia. Web. 2015,
16 December 2021
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