Drawing up the capital: Nehru’s impact on modern Indian architecture

Raj rewal’s hall of nations
Raj Rewal’s Hall of Nations

On Nehru’s 125th birth anniversary year, photographer Ram Rahman weaves an architectural narrative around Delhi, a city rooted in tradition but one that looked to the future.

Chandigarh became a powerful symbol of the new India and its aspiration for a forward-looking modern architecture and planning in the aftermath of Independence. Jawaharlal Nehru famously wrote in 1959: “Now I have welcomed one great experiment in India, which you know very well, Chandigarh. Many people argue about it, some like it, some dislike it. It is totally immaterial, whether you like it or not; it is the biggest job of its kind in India. That is why I welcome it. It is the biggest because it hits you on the head, because it makes you think”.

Nehru believed that architecture was important in building a cultural vision of a new, democratic and egalitarian society and a new citizen, and that the radical modern movement in Europe with its socialist roots was a model of inspiration. He encouraged young Indian architects to move to Delhi, many of whom joined government institutions which were being set up then. Delhi also had a lot of open land between its medieval ruins on which to build. Chandigarh was conceived, planned and designed by European and British architects led by the visionary Le Corbusier, but Delhi’s buildings after Independence were all designed by young Indian designers.

Habib Rahman, Achyut Kanvinde, Durga Bajpai, Charles Correa were all American trained and unusually, Delhi became the site where both European and American modernisms took root and created a unique mix of style and approach to materials. Architects trained under Corbusier also moved to Delhi in the early 1960s bringing that influence and use of bold concrete (for instance, JK Chowdhury in the IIT). Under that early impulse, Delhi became the site of some very important experiments in modern architecture over three generations in public buildings, factories and housing, home to one of the most important collections of this tradition in the world. Unfortunately, this has not been regarded as heritage and worthy of recognition and also preservation and conservation. […]

Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today.
Aline Chahine
Aline Chahine
Aline is an international licensed architect currently practicing in Canada, she is the reason you are reading this right now, Aline founded the platform back in 2008 shaping the very foundation of Architecture Lab, her exemplary content curation process that defines the online magazine today. Highlights Aline founded Architecture Lab in 2008 Lead editor of dan | dailyarchnews since 2019 Founded and Creative Director of DesignRaid Licensed architect with creative sales and marketing experience Experience As full-fledged architect, Aline's background involved a great deal of research that lead to the creation of Architecture Lab as an online database of exemplary design. Her experience snowballed into founding two architecture platforms, Architecture Lab and DesignRaid. Education Aline received USEK’s Master of Architecture in 2004 and BA in English from the University of Toronto
TITLE | Founder of Architecture Lab
About Architecture Lab Architecture Lab is a MKR.S Media brand, a website devoted to extraordinary design and aesthetics aiming to promote exceptional aesthetic values and sustainable design in all it's shapes and sizes. Learn more about us and our editorial process and feel free to contact us if you would like to see something in particular on the website, our certified experts will get back to you with the most trustworthy advice as soon as possible. Read all articles by Aline | Follow her on LinkedIn

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