Just three days after the Delhi High Court dismissed the plea of architect Raj Rewal against the demolition of the iconic Hall of Nations building complex as part of Pragati Maidan’s redevelopment plan, the structure was reduced to a pile of rubble.
The swift action was taken overnight on Sunday though the case was still under consideration in the High Court and hearings were scheduled for April 27 and May 1.
‘Not a heritage structure’
What worked against the iconic structure — built to celebrate 25 years of India’s independence, technological progress and indigenous talent — was that it was less that 60 years old and therefore could not be considered a heritage structure.
The structure allegedly obstructed the India Trade Promotion Organisation’s (ITPO) plans to construct a state-of-the-art convention and exhibition space at Pragati Maidan.
“The ITPO wanted certain changes like air-conditioning and renovation, which could have easily been done. I even submitted plans to re-develop and modernise Pragati Maidan when the ITPO asked for designs. However, they were dismissed only because the The Hall of Nations and Industries Complex along with the Nehru Pavilion were a part of the design and the ITPO wanted them demolished,” said Mr. Rewal, architect of the building.
Mr. Rewal said the government was set to celebrate Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh and other buildings that are less than 60 years old but was not interested in preserving a building that was a real example of “Make in India”.
‘Ruled by philistines’
“We are being ruled by people who are philistines. They have good knowledge about how to make money, but art and culture are their weak points,” Mr. Rewal had told The Hindu in February.
In a joint statement, architect Mahendra Raj; former convener of INTACH (Delhi) A.G.K Menon; and president of the Indian Institute of Architects Divya Kush, said: “PM Modi, in a interview, had said that he would like to rule India with ‘Niti’ and ‘Nyaya’, roughly translated as values and justice. Architects from across the world had appealed to him to preserve the buildings, but obviously somebody in the ITPO had other motives.”
Employees working at the National Science Centre, which overlooks the Hall of Nations, said that preparations to demolish the complex had started almost a month ago and the final blow was dealt sometime late Sunday.
Ranjit Hoskote, curator and cultural theorist, said “Raj Rewal is 83. Mahendra Raj is 93. This is how we honour our cherished elders in the new Bharatiya Sanskriti: by destroying their work. It is a tragic day for Indian architecture.”