Etched in red stone and marble, Jawahar Kala Kendra located at Jaipur stands as an abode for the amalgamation of Jaipur’s cultural and historical aspirations. Functioning as an arts and crafts center to date, Jawahar Kala Kendra was built in 1986 and the construction was completed in the year 1991.

“Like a trail that a snail leaves in its wake as it inches forward, over the years an architect leaves behind a body of work, generated by the attitudes of work, generated by the attitude he gradually accumulates towards the agenda he deals with” – Charles Correa

At the heart of Jaipur | Jawahar Kala Kendra

The statuesque architectural marvel was envisioned and brought to fruition by renowned architect Charles Correa. Known for his distinct architectural vocabulary and fondness of traditional architecture flavors, the architectural design, and planning of Jawahar Kala Kendra is yet another showcase of Charles Correa’s exemplary architectural finesse. The center was instituted by the state government for the preservation and promotion of the cultural and spiritual values of India and also for the exhibition of the rich craft heritage of India. The center also serves as a homage to one of India’s greatest leaders and political activist Jawaharlal Nehru.

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Picturesque central courtyard of Jawahar Kala Kendra ©jaipurtourism.co.in
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Influential Indian architect and urban planner, Charles Correa (1930 – 2015) ©news.mit.edu

The ‘Navagraha’ at Jawahar Kala Kendra

The architectural plan of the center is an inspiration of the original city plan of Jaipur which was conceived by Maharaja Jai Singh, the second, in the mid 17th century. Being a scholar, mathematician, and astronomer, Maharaja Jai Singh had articulated his city plan based on the Shilpa Shastras having its root in the ancient Vedic mandala of nine squares or houses representing the nine planets (including two imaginary ones Ketu and Rahu). The concept of nine squares or the ‘Navagraha’ forms as the fundamental principle in the planning and allocation of spaces, function, and character of the Kala Kendra.

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Planning principle of Jawahar Kala Kendra ©www.archinomy.com
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Architectural plan of Jawahar Kala Kendra ©hiddenarchitecture.net

Each square corresponds to a particular planet of the ‘Navagraha’ and the attributes of each planet have been used to dictate the functionality of each square and also the style of architectural design implemented in each of the squares. Taking a few examples; the library is located at the square corresponding to planet Mercury or Budh which has been traditionally attributed with the quality of knowledge. The theatre corresponds to the house of Venus or ‘Shukra’ representing the arts. The central square is a void, representing the ‘Nothing which is Everything’. The external walls are marked by the placement of the astronomical symbol of each planet through cut-out openings. Each square is of dimension 30 m x 30 m x 8 m in height. The various spaces described by the plan involve Library, printmaking studio, museum, terracotta gallery, Chaturdik gallery, Sukriti gallery, Surekha gallery, Parjit-1 gallery, Parjit-2 gallery, workshops, cafeteria, guest house, open-air theatre, theatre, and Shilpagram.

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Division of spaces ©hiddenarchitecture.net
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Sectional view of the Kala Kendra ©hiddenarchitecture.net

The architectural expression of the interiors

Charles Correa’s signature is vividly present in the meaningful and purposeful expression of the interiors. The interplay of natural and ambient light, shadow, and color of the material palette portray visual poetry which evokes the quintessence of the Kala Kendra. The flow of spaces and functions is immaculate and well constructed. The partially open roofs of the square have been adorned with ‘pergola’ structures providing ample scope for the infusion of light and shade at various times of the day. The ‘pergola’ structures along with the various cutouts employed in the design allow for a narrative of patterns of light and shadow which adds to the aesthetic value of the Kala Kendra. Such a narrative also invokes a sense of appreciation for the various distinct architectural expressions of each of the squares. Local materials and inspirations have been readily used at each design opportunity. Locally available wooden bamboo sticks have been used to construct the entire space frame. The spans between beams were designed keeping in mind the use of wooden bamboo sticks.

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Interiors views of the Jawahar Kala Kendra ©www.archinomy.com

‘Madhyavarti’ – Open-air theatre

The open theatre acts as the anchor point of the visual cue from all the surrounding squares. Often acting as the platform for various art, cultural and literary performances, the open theatre is addressed with stepped platforms which are often used as a medium of seating. The lofty surrounding walls and the seating are clad with locally sourced sandstone. The open-air theatre is well connected to all the surrounding squares.

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Performers and guests setting up for an event at the open theatre ©jaipurtourism.co.in

‘Tilam’ – Food Court at Jawahar Kala Kendra

The ambiance of the food court is set as a reminiscence of the traditional architecture of the rural areas of Rajasthan. Mud and brick masonry has been used in the construction of the structure and the roof frames are made of mild steel circular pipes covered with fiber sheet and faced with a locally available putty finish to evoke the rural architectural landscape. The artworks on the wall, seating arrangements, and other interior elements have been carefully selected to depict the innateness of rural living and its cultural richness.

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Rural setting depicted by the ‘Tilam’ – food court ©www.slideshare.net

Shilpgram complex

Shilpgram complex adjoins the main building of Jawahar Kala Kendra. It is curated as a rural complex with six huts symbolizing the life of various regions of Rajasthan.

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Plan and view of Shilpgram complex ©www.jaipurstuff.com

For the art lover

The Jawahar Kala Kendra has panned out to be a worthy addition to artists and art enthusiasts. Capturing the essence of time and playing out all its dimensions in a physical environment, the center truly lives up to its purpose. Workshops of dance and music, cultural festivals, and many other events are held at the center frequently. With its unique perspective and vision, Jawahar Kala Kendra portrays the architectural vision of India through the eyes of the master architect, Charles Correa.

Author

Architecture graduate, currently working in the field of architectural design. A passionate writer and a simple human being on a soulful journey of self exploration.

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