Delhi

Age or relevance — what makes a building iconic?

Hall of Nations, a landmark in Delhi, showcasing modernity, indigenous talent and recognised across the world as work of art was demolished early this week.   | Photo Credit: V.V. Krishnan

The Capital wasn’t built in a day. It has layers of buildings of architectural significance. These remains offer clues about one city, on which another was built, providing a cityscape where monuments and forts blend seamlessly with colonial structures and contemporary design.

'Senior citizens’ club'

While architecture of significance that is over 60 years old is protected by various agencies and the law, the fate of post-Independence architecture hangs in the balance as there’s no law to protect it. The deafening thud of “progress” came last week, when the city lost its iconic Hall Of Nations at Pragati Maidan. The demolition raised questions about the fate of other structures of ‘modern heritage’ that can be brought down any time as they’re not a part of the “senior citizens’ club”.

A.G.K. Menon, the former convener of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), said the Trust, in a bid to protect Delhi’s modern heritage, had in 2013 made a list of 62 buildings of significance constructed after Independence. It gave that list to the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC), formed by the Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC). However, the HCC dismissed the list saying it was “without any basis, arbitrary and completely ad hoc”.

'No set formula'

“Identifying buildings that are of modern architectural significance is not mathematics as there’s no set formula that can be applied. We need people well versed in history, aesthetics and design who will put forward arguments and reasons as to why a structure should be labelled as modern heritage and thus protected,” he said.

Mr. Menon added that it’s being done all over the world, with UNESCO having identified contemporary structures that are of value. However in India, Mr. Menon said, the process is very opaque due to pressure from the government.

“We as conservationists have a very transparent approach to the subject. Time is not a criteria but expert opinion is. Modern heritage is constantly being created and the need to protect it is important as history is constantly in the making.”

Historian and writer William Dalrymple said India needs to radically revamp her architectural policy, which is 200 years out of date.

“There’s need to revamp India’s dated British laws. Every country has private buildings that are of heritage value and any responsible government will bring out a legislation to protect its modern built heritage. The current government, which claims to be a patriotic one, should be the first to do so. The government wants to bring back the Kohinoor and other artefacts, but it also needs to preserve and conserve its architectural heritage,” said the chronicler of Delhi, adding that even havelis of old Delhi were slowly being encroached upon and that they needed to be preserved before it istoo late. In the 30 years he has spent in India, he’s shocked to see the state of deterioration of these havelis.

“India must realise that its tourism is the goose that lays the golden egg. Countries like Italy and Turkey have successfully managed to protect their built heritage despite being affected by World War-II. Rajasthan and Hyderabad are examples of places in India that have managed to attract tourists with successful preservation of heritage,” he said, adding that Lahore, which is located in a country affected by terrorism and lack of political strategy, has been protected by a better conservation policy than India's.

Nehru's legacy

Some like historian Sohail Hashmi feel the Hall of Nations was not the real target but that the government wanted to destroy the Nehru Pavilion as it wanted to wipe out the legacy of the “architect of modern India” — Jawaharlal Nehru.

“No civilised nation can do such a thing. The Hall of Nations may not have been 60 years old, but after it was completed praise poured in from different parts of the globe. We need experts to comprise a panel that takes decisions on such matters. The government cannot pick and choose who it wants to appoint to such committees that oversee vandalism,” he said.

S No.

Iconic Buildings

Architect

Year of inauguration

01

Vigyan Bhawan

R. L. Gehlote (CPWD)

1955

02

Dak Tar Bhawan

Habib Rahman

1955

03

Ashok Hotel

EB Doctor

1955

04

Triveni Kala Sangam

J. A Stein

1957

05

Supreme Court of India

CPWD, Ganesh Bhikaji Deolalikar

1958

06

Maulana Azad Memorial

Habib Rahman

1959

07

Rabindra Bhavan

Habib Rahman

1961

08

Shiela Theatre

Habib Rahman

1961

09

Gandhi Memorial Hall

Achyut Kanvinde

1961

10

Indian Coucil for Cultural Relations (ICCR)

Achyut Kanvinde

1961

11

India International Centre

J. A. Stein

1962

12

WHO Headquarters

Habib Rahman

1962

13

YMCA Staff Quarters

The Design Group

1963

14

Multi – Storeyed Flats, R. K. Puram

Habib Rahman

1965

15

Ford Foundation Headquarter

J. A. Stein

1968

16

Vikas Minar

Habib Rahman

1969

17

Akbar Hotel

Shivnath Prasad

1969

18

Nehru Memorial Library

Man Singh Rana

1969

19

American International School

J. A. Stein

1970

20

Jawaharlal Nehru University

C. P. Kukreja Associates

1970-‐ 1995

21

Mazaar of Zakir Hussain

Habib Rahman

1971

22

Hall of Nations and Hall of Industries (Permanent Exhibition Complex)

Raj Rewal Associates

1972

23

Nehru Pavilion

Raj Rewal Associates

1972

24

Shri Ram Centre for Performing Arts

Shiv Nath Prasad

1972

25

N. C. D. C. Office Building

Kuldip Singh

1973

26

Tibet House

Shiv Nath Prasad

1974

27

Mazaar of Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed

Habib Rahman

1975

28

Yamuna Apartments

The Design Group

1975

29

Malviya Nagar Housing Golf View Apartments

Kuldip Singh

1976

30

Tara Apartments

Charles Correa

1978

31

Press Enclave Housing Cooperative Group Housing

Ashish Ganju,

1979

32

Asian Games Village

Raj Rewal Associates

1982

33

National Diary Development Board

A. P. Kanvinde

1982

34

Palika Kendra New Delhi Civic Centre, Phase I & II

Kuldip Singh

1983

35

Indian Institute of Technology

J. K. Chowdhury

1984

36

Baha’i Temple

Fariburz Sahba

1986

37

Jeevan Bharti Building Life Insurance Corporation

Charles Correa

1986

38

Central Institute of Educational Technology

Raj Rewal Associates

1986

39

Kalibari

Sumit & Suchitra Ghosh

1988

40

State Trading Corporation Building

Raj Rewal Associates

1989

41

SCOPE Complex

Raj Rewal Associates

1989

42

Crafts Museum

Charles Correa

1990

43

National Science Centre

A. P. Kanvinde

1992

44

British Council

Charles Correa

1992

45

Buddha Memorial

Ashish Ganju

1993

46

Sanskriti Kendra (Anandgram)

Upal Ghosh Associates

1993

47

India Habitat Centre

J. A. Stein

1994

48

Dili Haat, I. N. A

Pradeep Sachdeva

1994

49

World Bank Regional Misssion

Raj Rewal Associates

1994

50

National Institute of Fashion Technology

Vastu Shilpa Consultants

1994

51

School for Spastic Children

Romi Khosla Design Studio

1995

52

INTACH Headquarters

Vastu Shilpa Consultants

1997

53

Institute of Social Science

Christopher Charles Beninger

1998

54

ISKCON

A. P. Kanvinde

1998

55

Garden of Five Senses

Pradeep Sachdeva

2003

56

Parliament Library Building

Raj Rewal Associates

2003

57

Mirambika Institute for Free Progress, Education and Integral Human Values

Sanjay Prakash Architects

2004

58

Alliance Francaise de Delhi

SPA Design & ABRD, Architects

2004

59

South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre (SAHRDC)

Anagram Architects

2005

60

M. F. Husain Art Gallery

Romi Khosla Design Studio

2008

61

The New Wing of NGMA

Team, Snehanshu Mukherjee

2009

62

Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium

GMP Architekten

2010

SOURCE: List of 62 buildings listed for conservation as “modern heritage” by INTACH submitted to the Heritage Conservation Committee andDelhi Urban Arts Commission in 2013

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2020 11:19:57 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/whats-age-got-to-do-with-it/article18346583.ece

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