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How did Baroque influence Modernism’s interpretation of nature?

Updated: Jul 4


Itika Atri, Falak Vora, Pranjal Maheshwari, History of Modernism, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Design, History, Modernism, Modernist, Modern, Movement, Zeyka, Zeyka India, Architecture, Interior Design, Home Renovation, Construction, Tech, Design, Project Management Consulting, Architect, Architects, Interior, Interiors, Interior Designer, Interior Designers, Modular Wardrobe, Modular Bathroom, Modular Kitchen, Living Room, Dining Room, Bedroom, Kid's Room, Pooja Room, Garden Design, Landscape Design, False Ceiling, Balcony, New Delhi, Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad


I woke up to the sounds of distant shouting and thwacking. Looking out- they were trimming the trees outside. Rampant thoughts take over my mind-


Gah! People are trying to sleep! Can they not do this quietly?


Why do they trim the trees, anyway? Its nature, already not much of it left. Let it grow freely!


But, the idea of growth these days is about control and power. It is about 'shaping' everything around us in the name of development. This notion of civilisation has resulted in massive human footprints left by grand structures. To accommodate this grandeur, we unabashedly compromise on nature and natural resources. Us deciding what grows where, how, and how much. A classic case of humans in power dictating everything around.


When did it come to this? I wondered.


Throughout history, man has been an ardent observer of Nature. Magnificent natural landscapes, time and again, became inspirations to human society. It became a primary muse to prominent artists of the time. They attempted to translate their admiration on canvas but failed to replicate it.


In 17th Century Rome, aristocratic families were preoccupied with the increasing importance of land ownership. Owning land was a symbol of influence, authority and status. They commissioned paintings of their landscapes and private rural lands. However, admiration changed with ownership. When man could own land, he had the power to contain it, mold it and shape it. Nature became a vice for political and social agendas in the tussle for power.

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Meanwhile, the Roman Catholic Church was worried about the rising Protestant Reformation. It needed means to regain popularity that could reinstate religious faith of the masses back in its institution. Recruited Artists were briefed to create something that would stir devotion in people. Something to make them believe in the religious institution again. The artists set to work.

They produced paintings that were realistic, with a dollop of exaggeration and drama. These artworks depicted religious conversions, grandiose visions, even death with an emotional exuberance. Irregular, contorted, different from the established rules of society; the new artform came to be known as ‘Baroque.’


Baroque became a trend, spreading across Europe, from Italy to England. As a new means of expression, it was soon adapted by sculptors, musicians and architects. Baroque, in its expression, was both- tangible and divine, sensuous and spiritual. The scenes in the art used colours and moulded light to create a dramatic effect.

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Baroque architecture, too, reflected these emotions of the art form. The buildings were grand and invoked authority. They featured an elaborate material palette showcasing vivid, luxurious colours, and intricately carved sculptures. The most important Baroque element was natural light. Its strategic play and position provided a sense of delight and physical immediacy. This added to the theatrical character that was Baroque architecture.

These two developments- Man's relationship with nature and Baroque's means of expression merged. When Baroque entered landscape design Nature was rationalised into architecture.


Baroque gardens became metaphors for man’s conquest of bending nature to suit his needs. Landscapes became sites of artistically trimmed elaborate flowerbeds, sculpted into ornate designs. The extensive gardens were detailed with straight lanes of gravels leading to terraces, ramps, staircases and cascades at different levels. These elevated platforms served as viewing points for the well-designed landscape. Tall green trees lined up to serve as a backdrop to ornamental statues placed in the lap of water bodies.

In these designs, Man and nature became individual entities. Yet they were not separate. Nature still held a prevailing symbolism of Man in its details. This union was heavily ornamented and symbol of prestige.

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As Baroque reached England, its ideologies of nature coalesced with English-style parks. The purposefulness and healthfulness of nature subsided. They were imbibed by the socio-economic elements and mythical features of Baroque. Parks and garden were rationally planned and dispersed in and around human settlements. Man established a boundary with Nature.


While the boundary limitations were firmly set, parks were 'allowed' to grow freely. Both the domains had distinct demarcations. Yet it is needless to say that the domain of nature remained inflicted with the identity of man.


Moving forward to Neo-Classicism and into Modernism, this expiatory attitude towards nature remained. Despite the growing exploitation of natural habitats surrounding existing human footprints, Nature still had a role to play in the Modern narrative. Modernist Architecture let go of excessive ornamentation that was characteristic of its predecessors. However, it chose to retain the distinction between man and nature. It held onto Nature's rationalisation into buildings and spaces.

Itika Atri, Falak Vora, Pranjal Maheshwari, History of Modernism, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Design, History, Modernism, Modernist, Modern, Movement, Zeyka, Zeyka India, Architecture, Interior Design, Home Renovation, Construction, Tech, Design, Project Management Consulting, Architect, Architects, Interior, Interiors, Interior Designer, Interior Designers, Modular Wardrobe, Modular Bathroom, Modular Kitchen, Living Room, Dining Room, Bedroom, Kid's Room, Pooja Room, Garden Design, Landscape Design, False Ceiling, Balcony, New Delhi, Delhi NCR, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata, Chennai, Ahmedabad

Although, Baroque distinguished identities between Man and Nature, it never severed their ties. Rather, its ideologies consciously retained that intersection. Thus, while the society and its mechanisms of production waged a war against nature, Baroque successfully provided a contemplative nostalgia towards it.


Modernism retained Baroque’s intersection between Man and Nature. It held onto the sense of man's reconciliation with his pristine, natural surroundings. This dialogue set in motion between them continued. However, this came with ‘limitations’ that deviated it from its purpose. Nature was to stay within its domain-of parks and gardens- where it was ‘free’ to grow, at least until the designer decided it was the time to trim.




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About the Writer

Pranjal Maheshwari is an undergraduate architecture student at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Bhopal. He has interned at Rethinking The Future (RTF), India Lost and Found (ILF) by Amit Pasricha, and Sandal Kapoor Associates.


About the Editor

Falak Vora is an architect, architectural historian, writer and essayist. She is a graduate of the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London (UCL), UK and Sarvajanik College of Engineering and Technology (VNSGU), Surat. She has experience working at Aangan Architects, Eternity Architects, Wall Space Architects, Studio i!, Guallart Architects and The Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena (UPCT).


About the Illustrator

Itika Atri is an undergraduate architecture student at the Deenbandhu Chhotu Ram University of Science and Technology (DCRUST), Murthal (Sonepat). She is a writer, illustrator and graphic designer. She has experience working as an Architectural Journalism Intern at Rethinking The Future (RTF).



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