Recognised worldwide as an important symbol of post-modern Indian architecture and built to celebrate 25 years of Indian Independence, the Hall of Nations may be reduced to rubble to redevelop Pragati Maidan as a “world-class exhibition centre”.
A Heritage Conservation Committee set up to consider whether the structure should be preserved under the category of “modern heritage” informed the Delhi High Court last week that it had rejected the recommendation against the demolition of the Hall of Nations. It had informed the court that a “heritage” building should be at least two generations or 60 years old. If the report of the committee is taken into account, the fate of the iconic structure is likely to be sealed on February 23.
Reacting to the news, the architect of the Hall of Nations, Raj Rewal, said: “Irrespective of who is in power, we are being ruled by people who are philistine [people who have very little knowledge about art and culture]. They have good knowledge about how to make money, but art and culture are their weak points.”
Mr. Rewal said he is not against the redevelopment of Pragati Maidan, an exhibition space that he designed himself. “However, they [the India Trade Promotion Organisation] said the Hall of Nations could not be a part of the redevelopment plan, and insisted on its demolition,” said the architect, adding that the building comprises only 2% of Pragati Maidan.
Pleas against demolition
The International Union of Architects (UIA), which represents over 1.3 million architects from 120 countries, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure the protection of the complex. However, all appeals have fallen on deaf ears.
The UIA has described it as “one of the largest space frames in concrete and internationally acclaimed as one of the most important buildings of the last century”.
Officials from the Centre national d’art et de culture Georges Pompidou in Paris, which has a permanent exhibit on the Hall of Nations, and New York’s Museum of Modern Art, among others, have also written to the government to ensure that it is not demolished.
Symbol of nationalism
“This government is a nationalist government. I do not understand why it is demolishing a building that is recognised worldwide as a symbol of India’s modernity, indigenous capability and innovation. It is not some building built by a foreigner like Le Corbusier, whom the government, in fact, celebrates,” said Manu Rewal, Mr. Rewal’s son.
“Architecture is not like music, literature and poetry, which are understood by many. It is a little more abstract, and to understand its relevance is rather complicated,” he added.