Since I left India where I used to live for a while, I wrote only one article about the multitude of interesting architectures that can be seen in this country. The book Steps to Water: The Ancient Stepwells of India written by Morna Livingston and published by the Princeton Architectural Press is a good excuse to come back to it.
Stepwells are indeed one of the most fascinating typologies of Gujarati and Rajasthani architecture. I visited some of them around Ahmadabad when I traveled there and was lucky enough to experience the slow architectural procession to the water that those wells offer to their visitors. Morna Livingston’s book introduces an important variety of them via her texts, photos and drawings (see below) which helps efficiently our imagination to reconstitute the religious ceremonial that used to occur in those sacred wells.
In 2006, the movie director Tarsem Singh extracted the spatial power of some of those wells (see the photo from a previous article) for his very aesthetizing film, The Fall that was repeatedly using classic Indian architecture to compose a fictitious environment for his plot. Morna Livingston’s photos, on the contrary, do not hesitate to show the wells in their current state which, sometimes, implies an important affect of time that thus accentuate the beautiful minerality of this architecture of stones.