A Glimpse of Modern Architecture: Panch Mahal, India

Panch Mahal, Fatehpur Sikri, India

Panch Mahal at Fatehpur Sikri In India was built in the sixteenth century by Mughal Emperor Akbar.  It is the earliest known example of a multistory frame structure akin to Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-Ino designed in 1914–1915.  Architect Le Corbusier is known as the father of modern architecture, however, Panch Mahal offered a glimpse of modern architecture before its time.    

Panch Mahal

Panch Mahal is a part of the City of Victory (Fatehpur Sikri) built by Mughal Emperor Akbar in late sixteenth century.  Fatehpur Sikri is a World Heritage site in India.  Panch Mahal means “five-story high royal pavilion”.   As the name suggests, it consists of a five-story frame pavilion made of red sandstone.  With its open floor plan, it mediates between a masonry structure on one side and an open plaza on the other.  

A view on a rainy day
A view on a rainy day 2

Panch Mahal‘s frame structure and open plan became a part of Le Corbusier’s architectural grammar, and truly served as precursor to modern architecture several centuries before Le Corbusier’s writings and projects.

Maison Dom-Ino by Le Corbusier

Maison Dom-Ino was a conceptual platform for post-war reconstruction in France designed by Le Corbusier.  It envisioned a structural framework of columns and concrete floor slabs connected by a stairway.  The entire system would be constructed of prefabricated components.  Le Corbusier envisioned a supply chain system, where the entire kit of prefabricated components would be delivered to a project site after receiving an order from a client. The site contractor would assemble the components in the field and add additional mass-produced components such as windows and doors.

The frame structure at Panch Mahal
The frame structure at Panch Mahal 3

The resulting architecture would allow open floor plans separated from both the structure as well as the façade.  The walls were no longer needed to support the structure and elimination of walls would allow floor to ceiling openings with plenty of natural light.  In addition, these openings would provide a sense of transparency between the exterior and the interior. 

A Glimpse of modern architecture

A structural frame consisting of reinforced concrete slabs and steel columns, open floor plan, free flowing façade independent of the structural frame and large horizontal openings between floor and ceiling became the essential elements of Le Corbusier’s modern architecture.  The fifth element was the roof top garden to compensate for the damage to the natural landscape, and to provide an additional setting to experience architecture.  Panch Mahal offered a glimpse of modern architecture several centuries before Le Corbusier’s proclamations. It must be recognized as a shining example of modern architecture before its time.

Side View of Panch Mahal
Side View of Panch Mahal 4


3 thoughts on “A Glimpse of Modern Architecture: Panch Mahal, India

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