Global call against razing Hall of Nations

Then and now:The ITPO intends to raze the Hall of Nations and Nehru Pavillion, which were designed by famed architect Raj Rewal and were constructed in 1972.Photos: Special Arrangement  

Attempts to save the iconic ‘Hall of Nations’ and ‘Nehru Pavilion’ at Pragati Maidan, which risk being razed, are garnering support from some of the most respected international institutions.

As part of the plan to modernise the Pragati Maidan exhibition complex, the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO) intends to raze the two structures, which were designed by famed architect Raj Rewal, constructed in 1972.

The plans have been derided by many architects, conservationists and heritage lovers who feel that the structures represent India’s first ‘modern’ architecture and should be preserved for posterity.

The curator of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, curator of Pompidou Centre (Paris), president of Union of International Architects, and president of the Architects Regional Council Asia have written to the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry, requesting for these ‘architectural masterpieces’ to be preserved as they are not only of significance for contemporary architecture in India, but of the entire world.

Professor Dr. Martino Stierli, curator of Museum of Modern Art, said in his letter: “Built in time of great optimism for the future, both structures were seminal in forging a new, modern identity for Indian society and architecture. They are architectural masterpieces and important witnesses of an important chapter of Indian history.”

He also expressed concerns about the threat of demolition to these structures and committed the Museum of Modern Art’s help to ensure that they are preserved.

Ar Esa Mohamed, president of the International Union of Architects, also spoke of the union’s ‘serious concerns’ about the plans to demolish the iconic structures. In his letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said that these structures serve as an inspiration to architecture students globally and should be preserved as national assets.

Aurelien Lemonier, curator, department of architecture, Centre Pompidou (Paris), expressed his support and wish to contribute to the recognition of these two ‘great pieces of architecture’ and their maintenance as part of architectural heritage. The structures, Mr. Lemonier said in his letter, express a new step in the development of modernity in terms of aesthetic, constructive innovation and social engagement.

‘Unique in its own way’

“These structures will be lost forever, which is very serious. Institutes across the world are saying this,” architect Raj Rewal told The Hindu . “It is not only nationally important, but is also part of international architectural heritage. A structure like this is unique in its own way,” he added.

“We are hoping that these will be preserved as they are one of the most important structures built in the last century,” he said.

Mr. Rewal said that the structures may be 40 years old, but with some renovation they can be made to last for another 200 years.

“The total area of the Hall of Nations complex, including Nehru Pavilion, is hardly 7 per cent of the 120-acre site of the Pragati Maidan. In fact, the Hall of Nations structure occupies only 2 per cent of the site. Any new development can be amalgamated with these two structures along with the same magnificent trees that are in close proximity to these buildings,” Mr. Rewal had said in a recent interview to noted Iranian philosopher and academic Dr. Ramin Jahanbegloo.

Heritage lovers say the structures represent India’s first ‘modern’ architecture and must be preserved

Our code of editorial values