Tag Archives: Delhi

Explore modern cities and architectural production in the blurred era of the independence and postcolonial period

Join us for three sessions which will bring together scholars, researchers and curators to explore architectural production in the blurred era of independence to the post-colonial period of the mid-20th century, focussing on cities in Africa, Middle East and South Asia. 

Register here:

Whether driven by socialist agendas (Nehruvian in India and Nkrumah in Ghana), monarchies (Pahlavis in Iran and Hashemite in Iraq), quasi colonial protectorates, or pan-continental aspirations, architecture (and especially Modernism) was a key apparatus for nation-building, for re-imagining identities and a means to project and invent a new image of the future. The seminar seeks to explore the use of architecture as both physical infrastructure and symbolic expression, as well as its vulnerability to the vicissitudes of changing politics and policies of the times.

The role of cities as crucibles, vectors and catalysts for developing new expressions of identity, change and power is key. Cities in this period saw the emergence of schools of thought, dynasties and collaborations were formed, networks and ideas were shared and publications were disseminated. While the desire of a newly independent nation was often to consolidate a single national collective identity, it was through the urban centres that strands of coherent, yet often multiple identities were formed. The role of figures such as Rifat Chadirji, Mohamed Makiya, Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry were important as they often operated within multiple cities and cross-cultural contexts that spanned the colonial to postcolonial divide. 

These urban centres were either newly built, or they were remade and reimagined through city infrastructure, government buildings, universities, cultural institutions and national monuments. Architecture schools, state sponsored projects and external agencies feed into the discussion and warrant further exploration. The seminar explores the transnational connections, diverse political agendas and complex allegiances which informed architectural development in this period. 

Seminar convenors:

  • Iain Jackson, Professor of Architecture and Research Director, Liverpool School of Architecture
  • Clara Kim, The Daskalopoulos Senior Curator, International Art, Tate Modern
  • Nabila Abdel Nabi, Curator, International Art, Tate Modern


Session 1: Crucibles, 15:00-16:30 (UTC)

  • Building the Modern City: Expressions of Identity, Change and Power
    • Moderated by Iain Jackson

This panel will explore state-sponsored programmes, planned cities and masterplans in cities such as Lagos, Tehran and Baghdad. It will examine architecture as expressions of nationalism and nationalist political agendas as well as its relationship to big business, corporations and mercantile ventures.


  • Talinn Grigor (University of California, Davis)
    • Building a (Cosmopolitan) Modern Iran
  • Ola Uduku (Manchester School of Architecture)
    • Lagos International Metropolis: A city’s adventure in tropical architecture as an expression of dynamic modernism and growth in the mid 20th century
  • Lukasz Stanek (University of Manchester)
    • Rupture, Transition and Continuity in Baghdad’s Master Plans: From Minoprio to Miastoprojekt

Session 2: Vectors, 17:00-18:30 (UTC)

  • Connecting the Modern City: Networks, Alliances and Knowledge Production
    • Moderated by Clara Kim

This panel will explore the practice of modern architecture through colonial-postcolonial networks and geopolitical alliances. It will explore cities in Mozambique within the context of other Lusophone countries, post-Partition East & West Pakistan, as well as the dissemination of knowledge and technical expertise through pedagogy.


  • Ana Tostões (University of Lisbon)
    • Correspondences, Transfers and Memory: Maputo’s “Age of Concrete”
  • Fahran Karim (University of Kansas)
    • Archaeology of the Future: Constantinos Doxiaidis in East and West Pakistan
  • Patrick Zamarian (University of Liverpool)
    • Global Perspectives and Private Concerns: The AA’s Department of Tropical Architecture


Session 3: Catalysts, 15:00-16:30 (UTC)

  • Fragments of the Modern City: Memories, Echoes and Whispers
    • Moderated by Nabila Abdel Nabi

This panel will explore the collaborations, connections and entanglements that developed between art and architecture during a dynamic period of building in Morocco, India and Iraq. It will examine the legacy and afterlives of these projects through the investigation of under-recognised figures and narratives in art and architecture.


  • Lahbib el Moumni & Imad Dahmani (founders of MAMMA, Mémoire des Architectes Modernes Marocain)
    • Initiatives toward saving modern heritage of Morocco
  • Ram Rahman (Photographer/Curator)
    • Building Modern Delhi, The Nehruvian Post-Independence Renaissance
  • Amin Alsaden (Independent Scholar)
    • Syntheses Across Disciplines: Rifat Chadirji and Art-Architecture Liaisons in Modern Baghdad

This event is organised by Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational and Liverpool School of Architecture.

Herbert Baker, New Delhi and the reception of the classical tradition

by Soumyen Bandyopadhyay, Sagar Chauhan, in The Routledge Handbook on the Reception of Classical Architecture: 

This chapter assesses the work of the British architect Sir Herbert Baker (1862–1946) for the imperial capital of New Delhi, a role he shared with Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869–1944) very much as an equal partner over more than a decade. This assessment is undertaken in the context of the reception and rereading of the classical project and the wider classical tradition among not only the imperialists, but also the colonised in India.

Herbert Baker: corbelled arch in New Delhi

corbelled arch in New Delhi

The reception of the classical tradition in India assumed a character distinct from other British colonies as a result of a long-standing history of interaction with the classical world, as well as the sheer immensity of its diverse historical, literary and material culture traditions. With the consolidation of the British Empire in India, European classical traditions assumed attributes and resonances they did not possess in Europe.


We included an article on these structures exactly one year ago today – and were still hopeful that the Indian Government would see sense and agree to retain these important pieces of architecture. Alas, they made a terrible decision and sent in the wrecking ball.

There was no real justification for this act of cultural vandalism. It is a disgraceful destruction of modern heritage, not to mention the environmental waste.

Next month the AHRC and Indian Council for Historical Research will be sponsoring a workshop on ‘Cultural Heritage and Rapid Urbanisation in India‘ in Delhi. Its too late for the Maidan but let’s hope the workshop can provoke some much needed change.


Read and see more at the Hindustan Times.

Are the pleas to save Delhi’s iconic Pragati Maidan falling on deaf ears?


The pleas against the “mindless destruction” have been met with deaf ears.


Last year, architect and planner Arun Rewal started a petition on to appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to save three iconic buildings in Delhi’s Pragati Maidan from demolition. The Hall of Nations, Hall of Industries and Nehru Pavilion, the petition says, are acknowledged the world over as “icons of modernity”. To raze them would be to destroy a part of our heritage.

The Indian Institute of Architects made a similar plea around the same time. “We have learnt that some of the iconic structures… which stood testimony to the nation’s prowess in structural engineering and architecture… are being demolished,” the national body of architects said in a letter to the Indian government. It beseeched against the razing of the structures.

By all signs, the entreaties have swayed nobody.

It was in November 2015 that the demolition of the exhibition halls at Pragati Maidan, under a redevelopment project proposed by Commerce Ministry’s India Trade Promotion Organisation, was confirmed. In their stead, the government plans to construct a state-of-the-art convention centre, a hotel and a parking lot – much to the horror of Indian architects.

In a written reply to the Lok Sabha in 2015, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “As per preliminary details of phase-I, it is proposed to develop 100,000 sq. m. of exhibition space and a 7,000 seater convention centre along with support facilities and parking space for 4,800 passenger cars. Other details, such as funding and schedule of completion, are yet to be firmed up.”

The threatened buildings were constructed between 1969 and 1972, the year independent India turned 25. Designed by architect Raj Rewal, Arun Rewal’s uncle, and engineer Mahendra Raj, the three structures were held up as symbols of a progressive India and they have gained iconicity for their modern architecture.

Anyone who has grown up in the national capital knows them intimately. Most Delhiites have visited the buildings during one fair or another at Pragati Maidan, be it a book fair, auto expo (before it shifted to Noida) or trade fair. Just walking through the zig-zag, fenced path leading up to Pragati Maidan’s ticket counter, dragging a tote bag (or four) for books, is enough to inspire nostalgia in many.


Raj Rewal in front of the Hall of Nations

The Hall of Nations was designed by Raj Rewal in the traditional jali (mesh) form to serve as a sun breaker. As architect Malini Kochupillai wrote, the buildings “had an effective system of environmental control, thanks to the three-dimensional structure, with solid triangular panels at regular intervals providing sunscreens – a modern equivalent of the traditional jali ubiquitous in Indian architecture ” . The modernist icons were built despite the constraints of time and material.

Raj Rewal was awarded the French Knight of the Legion of Honour, the highest civilian distinction, in March for his outstanding service to the country. It is ironic that the award comes at a time when his best-known creation in India is about to be pulled down.

“It is not just me who wants these buildings left up,” said Raj Rewal. “The entire architectural profession thinks it is an important part of New Delhi and that it will be in everyone’s best interest if these are not demolished. It has been showcased all over the world in exhibitions as a model for 20th century architecture. These need to survive. They are a reflection of what India was in the 1970s. Destroying them would be like destroying any historic building.”

When various bodies representing art and architecture in India and around the world – the Indian Institute of Architects, the Centre national d’art et de culture Georges Pompidou in Paris, and New York’s Museum of Modern Art – got to know about the demolition proposal, they wrote letters to Sitharaman, asking that the architectural sites be preserved.


The Nehru Pavilion

“The Hall of Nations is known in Europe as in United States as the first large-scale spatial structure in concrete in the world,” writes MoMA in its letter. “Built in a time of great optimism for the future, both structures were seminal in forging a new, modern identity for Indian society and architecture. They are architectural masterpieces and important witnesses of an important chapter of Indian history.”

In another letter, Aurelien Lemonier of Centre Pompidou, which houses the largest museum for modern art in Europe, requests the preservation and maintenance of these structures: “From our understanding, the Hall of Nations and the Nehru Pavilion should be considered as a major heritage of the post-independence architecture and need to be preserved. We want then to express our support and our wish to contribute to the recognition of these two great pieces of architecture and their proper maintenance as part of the architectural heritage.”

There has been no response to the letters from the India Trade Promotion Organisation or from the office of Nirmala Sitharaman.

“It is a part of the city’s memory and people should care because it is a space that belongs to people,” said Arun Rewal. “The importance and potential of the building would be obvious to me even if I wasn’t an architect. The Hall of Nations is a space that can be used in a million different ways. It could be the new Jantar Mantar where the public could stage protests. It could be a new city hall of sorts. It is a little rundown but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed and definitely doesn’t warrant its demolition.”

Arun Rewal stressed that there are very few covered public spaces in Delhi where people can go, sit, and hang out. The Hall of Nations can be adapted for any of these various uses, he says.

According to historian and photographer Ram Rahman, the demolition of the Pragati Maidan structures, especially of the Nehru Pavilion, is ideological in nature. His architect father Habib Rahman is credited with several buildings built under Jawaharlal Nehru’s leadership. “It is a part of a concerted effort to demolish Nehru’s legacy and symbols of Nehru’s modern India,” said Rahman. “It is a part of India’s collective cultural heritage. When these were constructed in 1972, there was no question of the general public not knowing about its existence. The problem is that the public has never been made to think of contemporary architecture as heritage. They need to be educated in the importance of these buildings.”

Architects have noted that there is sufficient space within Pragati Maidan and around the threatened buildings, which take no more than about 3% of the 150 acres of Pragati Maidan, to accommodate new programmes and “adaptive reuses”.

“Efforts should be made to update these spaces with modern facilities and amenities rather than let weak arguments, such as ‘lack of air conditioning’, become reasons for their demolition,” said Arun Rewal. “Just because these buildings are old doesn’t mean they need to be removed. You won’t get rid of your elderly grandmother because she is taking up space, would you?”

Republished from:

Have a look here too for another report on the AHRC/ICHR meeting in Delhi:

Envisioning the Indian City

From 2 to 4 March 2015, ETIC members Ian Magedera and Iain Jackson were invited to take part in a workshop on Cultural Heritage and Rapid Urbanisation, co-organized in Delhi by the Research Councils UK India Office (RCUK-India), the AHRC and the Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR).
The event brought together 30 UK and Indian academics and curators from the British Library, cultural practitioners and civil servants in order to develop research priorities that are to help shape collaboration between the two countries in this domain. The active management seminar format of short position papers, taken up by breakout groups who then reported back, allowed this relatively large number of participants to both work with and get to know each other’s research over two intense days based at the Maiden’s heritage hotel in Delhi’s Civil Lines district.

Delegates outside Maiden's Hotel, Civil Lines, Delhi Delegates outside Maiden’s Hotel, Civil Lines, Delhi

The paired topics…

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Kashmir House, Prithviraj Road, Delhi (1927-29)

Richard Butler

Chetwode photo 1     Chetwode photo 2

Main entrance (left) and South façade, showing loggias (right), Kashmir House, Prithviraj Road, Delhi (1927-29). Photographed by Penelope Chetwode, c. 1931.

Designed by Walter Sykes George (1881-1962), with significant early input from Edwin Lutyens, Kashmir House is one of Delhi’s most engaging inter-war private residences. The house was designed for a wealthy Hindu banker, Sultan Sing, but his untimely death before the project was completed resulted in it being sold to the maharajah of Patiala, and later to the state of Kashmir.

Sing first asked Lutyens for a design in 1927, but relations between the two were strained and he soon approached George, who maintained a close friendship with Lutyens (his greatest influence). ‘I would like you to build a house for me’, he said, ‘to show what an Indian gentleman’s house should be’. Lutyens eventually backed out of the commission on the grounds that George, having lived continuously in India since 1915, would ‘understand better how an Indian gentleman liked to live’ (George’s words). ‘The banker’, he added, ‘wished to entertain in western fashion, and to have western guests to stay with him, while he, and his family, lived in orthodox Hindu fashion, and he gave dinners in that fashion.’

The building is a fascinating hybrid of Indian and western traditions. Almost all the important rooms are located on the ground floor – only bedrooms are upstairs. The space is laid out around an enclosed courtyard with open loggias to the south. A ground-floor corridor runs the entire length of the house, connecting the ‘western’ and ‘orthodox’ dining rooms, the smaller dining room, the drawing room, some of the bedrooms, and the main west entrance. In an effort to keep different kinds of foods separate – meat especially – the ‘Hindu’ and ‘English’ kitchens are in completely separate wings, though communication is possible between the two dining rooms, when required. There is also a Puja room for daily worship, and segregated entrances allow a more private entrance for the family and their servants, in contrast the more public porch or the trio of loggias, which open onto a garden.

Kashmir House plan first floor Kashmir House plan ground floor

Floor plans (with new labels superimposed), Kashmir House, Delhi. Originally published in Walter George, ‘The Architecture of Walter George’, Design (Bombay) (Sept., 1960)p. 21.

George used small windows and thick walls to counter the effects of the hot climate. The use of a courtyard and south-facing loggias meant that all the ground floor bedrooms, including the principal ones, are shaded and lit indirectly. Furthermore, the upstairs windows are sunken and mostly hidden from view from the garden and entrance driveway, which would have ensured privacy for Sing’s family, and the upstairs was likely reserved for family quarters. Curiously, George said he was aware of what Frank Lloyd Wright was doing at this time in America, but he could not copy them in India as both English and Hindu uses ‘require privacy, and there is little privacy in Wright’s houses.’

Kashmir House still exists, though much altered. With Sing’s death went the opportunity to use the building’s plan as originally intended.


More information on the architecture of Walter George can be found in Richard Butler, ‘The Anglo-Indian architect Walter Sykes George (1881-1962): a Modernist follower of Lutyens’, Architectural History, vol. 55 (2012), pp. 237-68.

All images reproduced courtesy of Professor Gavin Stamp (original Chetwode photographs now kept by RIBA, London).

Indian Connections with the Liverpool School of Architecture

I’m hoping to uncover more connections, exchanges and networks between India and the Liverpool School of Architecture. Please feel free to get in touch if you know of any other Indian Architects and Planners who studied in Liverpool during the early-mid twentieth century, or were directly influenced by Reilly, Budden, Gardner-Medwin, Abercrombie, Holford.This post focuses on three architects who came from India to study at Liverpool; Srinivasarao Harti Lakshminarasappa (BArch in 1921), T. J. Manickham (BArch in 1940) and D. V. R. Rao (BArch in 1950). In all three cases their careers have adopted a tripartite approach of practice, teaching and writing.  In the cases of Manickam and Rao they also worked in the West Indies and Middle East, respectively, with the UN. Gardner-Medwin had taken a similar role in India during the early 1950s. The role of the UN in terms of development/welfare/self-build is an interesting and under-researched component of ‘Tropical Architecture’ in the post WW2 era. Furthermore as demonstrated in these two cases, non-European professionals were advising on planning and architecture matters in other parts of the world, illustrating a shift in power-knowledge relations and a more complex network of exchange than the polar colonizer-colonized model would suggest.

Srinivasarao Harti Lakshminarasappa. Born circa 1885.

Lalit Mahal Palace, Mysore, circa 1930s

He was the chief architect to the Maharaja of Mysore and worked on the ostentatious Lalit Mahal Palace, completed around 1930, along with  E. W. Fritchley.He also worked on a number of other prestigious projects, including Mysore Town Hall and the Municipal offices, known as the BBMP building (built 1933-36) and was also involved in education as the Principle of the College of Engineering, Bangalore.

T. J. Manickam (1913-1974) Manickam studied at University of Mysore before studying at Liverpool where he completed the BArch degree in 1940 and the Post Graduate Diploma in Civic Design in 1946. He then returned to India, and took up office in the substantial Public Works Department (PWD) before establishing the School of Town & Country Planning in Delhi in 1955.


T. J. Manickam, circa 1970s.

In conjunction with the ITPI he established the Planning Campus in 1958 and merged with the Architecture department of Delhi polytechnic in 1959 to form the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA). This is a prestigious school and is ranked amongst India’s top architecture schools. Manickam designed a new campus in 1965.
Aware of the importance of disseminating his findings and the reputation of the school, Manickham also founded the journal, Urban and Rural Planning Thought in 1958 (based on the Town Planning Review). He also wrote several articles for Urban & Region al Planning, “Housing Crisis in the east” (1971) for example, and the books New Towns in India, (SPA, 1960), and Housing Crisis in the East, (SPA, 1970)

Furthermore he served as a UN co-ordinator in the West Indies (Trinidad and Tobago) and was a UN Advisor to the Government of Jamaica between 1963-66.

D. V. R. Rao: Prof. Rao has been kind enough to write some of his memories of Liverpool and career highlights and these are included below (email correspondence with Jackson, 2012)

DVR Rao Liverpool University

D.V.R. Rao graduation photograph, Liverpool, 1950

“I am pleased to have had the opportunity to reminisce on my Liverpool days and answer some of the questions posed by Dr Iain Jackson

Why I chose Liverpool– After graduating in civil Engineering from Bangalore University I decided to go to the UK for further studies under the Tata scholarship. Prof Manickam and Mr Lakshminarasappa were both graduates from Liverpool practising in Bangalore at that time. Both spoke highly of the quality of education at the Liverpool School of Architecture which is why I decided on Liverpool and travelled there after the war

Prof Budden –I studied under Prof Budden whom I remember as an excellent teacher and particularly proficient in classic architecture. I graduated from Liverpool university in 1950.There were no other Indian students at the time. Liverpool University was not particularly well known in India except to a small section of post graduate students teachers and academics

Subsequent career– I returned to India in 1950 did a few small assignments and was subsequently appointed to IIT Kharagpur as architect to the campus and assistant professor of the Department of Architecture and Regional Planning. I was fortunate enough to meet Prof Vishwanath Prasad who had earlier worked with Prof Abercrombie, planner of Greater London and Prof Matthews of Clyde valley Regional development. I was promoted to Professor and Head of department of Architecture

In 1963 I took over as officiating director of the SPA, Delhi during the absence of Prof Manickam who was away on a 3 year foreign assignment [Ed – on the UN mission to West Indies].  On Prof Manickam’s return I continued in the SPA as Professor and Head of Department of housing studies  as I had developed a keen interest in social housing which had become a serious issue.  I initiated research into the sociological and economic aspects of massive social housing programmes for disadvantaged people. This drew the attention of UN organizations who were conducting similar studies in other developing countries

Following the sad and untimely passing away of Professor Manickam I took over as director of the school.I developed a strong research centre on rural housing and construction of demonstration houses to help improve the quality of houses in rural areas. Meanwhile I had also worked towards getting the School elevated to the status of a deemed university

In 1977 I was invited by the United Nations to serve as technical advisor in Town and Regional planning in Saudi Arabia . I worked mainly in Riyadh and other Emirates for 9 years from 1977 to 1986 .During this time our team (comprised of a number of international architects and planning consultants) undertook planning and development of major cities alongside a national spatial strategy for equitable distribution of the population. This became the basis for all further and future development in Saudi Arabia.

I retired in 1986 and returned to India. Since then I have been associated with a few consultancy groups.In recent years I have withdrawn from any active participation on grounds of advancing age and deteriorating health”.

I would like to express my thanks to Prof. Rao and his family for helping with this research and for providing the photograph above.

Tropical Architecture and the West Indies

The work undertaken in the West Indies during WW2 was to have a significant impact on the later works that followed in West Africa. Robert Gardner-Medwin was posted to the West Indies during WW2 whilst serving in the Corps of Royal Engineers. His mission, working with funding from the Colonial Development and Welfare legislation, was to undertake ‘research’ into building techniques, materials, indigenous housing and new educational buildings. The funding was triggered by riots and general unrest during the 1930s. The British West Indies was the name given to a disparate collection of islands, as well as two mainland territories, Honduras in Central America, and Guyana in South America. Gardner-Medwin plotted this on a map which he overlayed with European capital cities to emphasize the scale of the region he was responsible for.


A small team who accompanied him, including two of his former students from the Architectural Association, London, Leo De Syllas and Gordon Cullen.

Leo De Syllas is of particular interest as he was commissioned to design several schools in the West Indies, including Bishops High School, Georgetown. Here we see the use of local materials, simple but expressive detailing, the use of verandahs, covered walkways and courtyards – all deployed in an attempt to control the interior temperatures of the spaces and all indebted to the colonial architecture that preceded it. De Syllas would go one to work in Africa with the Architects Co-Partnership.

Bishops High School, Georgetown

They also proposed schemes that moved the existing dwellings from one place to another in an attempt to reduce density, which they believed correlated with better health.

When a fire broke out in Georgetown destroying the town centre, Gardner-Medwin was on hand to replan it, and noted how the local hardwoods were more fire-resistant than steel framed buildings. After the war he returned to the UK, working in Scotland and designing health centres before taking over from Lionel Budden as head of the Liverpool School of Architecture. His work in the tropics was not over however, and he joined a UN sponsored team investigating low cost housing in India in 1951. On this tour he met with and was shown Otto Koenigsberger’s work in Delhi as well as many other schemes throughout the country. India was a hotbed of planning activity at this time, with Chandigarh being constructed and the low cost housing exhibition being staged in New Delhi (organized by Jacqueline Tyrwhitt).

Jackson has recently published a paper that discusses this topic in greater detail; it can be downloaded here.