From a Hall of Nations to a Pile of Rubble – Will the Phoenix rise? Article by Rahoul B. Singh

Both erasure and inscription are equal instruments in the production of culture - what happens in the aftermath of the destruction of one of the most prominent icons of Independent India?

Share Post:

Hall of Nations, New-Delhi / 1971-72 Architect: Raj Rewal Structural Engineer: Mahendra Raj
Photography: Ariel Huber, Lausanne

With the demolition of the Hall of Nations, New Delhi lost a part of itself on Sunday, the 23rd of April 2017.

Both erasure and inscription are equal instruments in the production of culture. Both are tools through which the rich and the powerful inflict their will on a landscape. Erasure and inscription are the vehicles through which we communicate what is important to us, in its absence and in its presence.

The demolition of the Hall of Nations sounded the death knell for an idea of India that had its roots in the ideals of the freedom struggle. Our fight against an authoritarian colonial power was rewarded with independence in 1947. The embracing of technology – of art and science as tools in a democratic project, the vehicles for a nations’ development – was manifested (and continues to be) in both public policy and material form in the decades following independence.

The loss of these structures is our collective loss.

As cultural artifacts, we lost a vital link to our past. Future generations will be poorer in their understanding of the development of post-colonial India because key representations of it have been obliterated. As a physical manifestation of how we imagined ourselves as a new nation, the structures represented the ideas and ideals of modern India.

They were structures that India embraced lovingly.

Hall of Nations, New Delhi, 1972 Architect: Raj Rewal Engineer: Mahendra Raj
Postage Stamps by Govermnent of India

Their images were printed on postal stamps, they were featured in movies, and important trade fairs were hosted in them – partly to demonstrate our technical and architectural prowess to the world. As large span, cast-in-place concrete structures, there were few – if any – other precedents to be found elsewhere. The architect, Raj Rewal, and the engineer, Mahendra Raj, demonstrated that even in the late sixties and early seventies it was possible to be Indian, build Indian and be the state of the art. The structures were highly acclaimed and loved by people from the world over.

As buildings commissioned by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, these sought to commemorate in 1972 twenty-five years of India’s Independence. They served to stand as a monument, a symbol of a new India defining its place in the world.

It was arguably our coming of age moment.

On the night of April 23, 2017, that monument was demolished by the state to make way for a new convention center in what is probably the greatest act of state sponsored sedition in living memory.

Both erasure and inscription are equal instruments in the production of culture. In the footprints of the Hall of Nations, will the phoenix rise or will it be overshadowed by the ghost of the past?

Endnote:

“The old order changeth yielding place to new And God fulfills himself in many ways Lest one good custom should corrupt the world. Comfort thyself: what comfort is in me I have lived my life and that which I have done May he within himself make pure but thou If thou shouldst never see my face again Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”

Alfred Lord Tennyson,
Idylls of the King.


Author Bio

Rahoul Singh, RLDARahoul B. Singh is a New Delhi based architect, writer and curator.  He is deeply interested in and committed to the quality of the built environment and runs a design practice along with Lakshmi Chand Singh,  www.rldastudio.com.

Share your comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent

Coruscate 2.0 at Surat, Gujarat by Studio17

Coruscate 2.0 at Surat, Gujarat by Studio17

It is a project extension of coruscate, an IT office. We always fascinate about having some activities along with our daily work schedule. Why not bring this fascination true. A floor having all kind of activities which are needed to complete an office to its fullest. – Studio17

An average city transmute (001) in Trivandrum, Kerala by EGO DESIGN STUDIO

An average city transmute (001) in Trivandrum, Kerala, by EGO DESIGN STUDIO

An average city transmute (001) in Trivandrum, Kerala by EGO DESIGN STUDIO – An average city transmute (001)” is an exploration of a typical urban small site with existing dilapidated concrete buildings. This is an attempt to redesign and renovate existing old concrete buildings with minimum demolition.

Penthouse By The River, at Dumas road, surat, by The Concept Lab

Penthouse By The River, at Dumas road, surat, by The Concept Lab

A 5,000 square-feet penthouse on the 11th floor of a sky-rise had a lot going for IT space, and on eviably edited panorama of the river-side, on puffy white clouds, clear blue sky and the green tops of verdant trees.

In a house hanging in the clouds with french windows on every side space, in its absolute abundance became a defining factor. And it began with pairing down the six-bedroom to four-bedroom for this family of three. – The Concept Lab

Subscribe to Architecture and Design Updates