The non-official organisation located in the capital of the country, India International Centre serves as a platform for scholars to put forth varied schools of thought for the collective betterment of society. As the organisation itself is a non-official one, these cultural and intellectual exchanges are not affiliated with any specific political or governmental agenda. The campus consists of three main divisions, the Programmes Division, the Library and the Publications Division.

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The centre was designed in the early 1960s by American architect Joseph Allen Stein. Designed by the same architect, the main complex is accompanied by similar institutional buildings surrounding it. This gave the complex recognition by the architects’ name and is unofficially also known as ‘Steinabad’. 

IIC not only serves as the cultural centre but also holds political importance in terms of the post-independence era. Along with many other architects, called in from around the world to work for the new post-independence language of the country, Joseph Stein was commissioned by the IIC with a design aim to make a bold strong statement for itself. In the United States, the architect was well known for his projects adopting the Modern California style. The style developed by Charles and Ray Eames, was widely used for residential projects throughout the country for a substantial period of time, from the 1930s-1960s. It was defined with its modernist features such as, indoor- outdoor living, open plans and rectilinear massing. Along with a blend of local material, these design elements were reflected in IIC Delhi. Being a public building, the open planning concept worked out as one of the most efficient ways of designing internal spaces. Whereas major rectilinear massing, with a few geometrical alterations were the ideal response to the site, creating a statement facades along with open pockets acting as  foreground and gathering spaces.  

The 4.6 acres campus has three main functional streams within, namely, the intellectual, social, and cultural. Accessible through the Max Mueller Marg, the adjacent open green space, Lodhi garden, acts as a fair foreground to enhance the institutional character of the complex. The public open space is a tourist attraction, consisting of a series of tombs. Respecting the context of the historical monuments in the immediate surroundings, the use of vernacular material palette is prominently seen. 

The architectural language was derived as a response to the nature of the events and the environment it has to cater to. Considering the climatic aspects, many of traditional Indian design elements were incorporated in the planning. Series of semi-open spaces with light landscaping, forming the spill-overs, is seen complementing the main activity. Rather than going for the conventional brick construction, the architect altered the patterns, making jaali walls as the feature element, for the centre

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The triangular site consists of a total of six major typologies of massing, marking edge to a semi-covered open space in-between. The programme block stands as the image of the campus and with its longitudinal volume designed for library and conference room opening out in inward-looking courts. 

Attached to the main block, the auditorium showcases a solid geometry with small scale spill-over spaces. It takes the position of displaying the first view of the complex when entered through one of the main road entry points. A similar hall/ gathering space is designed at the second main entrance of the campus, Kamaladevicomplex. 

The space has a list of activities to offer, making it a ground+2 structure along with a basement. Management offices, seminar halls, multipurpose halls and art galleries are included in this block. 

The other end of the library block merged into the landscape, and is attached to a self-service lounge. The catering and dining areas act as a connection as well as a buffer in-between the public and semi-private spaces. Similar to the auditorium, solid geometry is seen for the same. Built-in close connection to an artificially designed water body, the mass creates an illusion of floating over it. With openness in the façade of it, the visual connection is well maintained. 

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The linear hostel blocks have a total of 46 guest rooms and an attached dining facility. Each of the rooms has a view of the main landscaped area of the complex. The linear block is complemented with a centrally located tower enclosing the vertical circulation, reception, and bar area. The internal passage areas are enclosed with two exterior layers, considering the climate, consisting of the glass and jali wall on the external face. Landscape connecting the entire campus also followed a subtle language respecting the adjacent open space character. 

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In totality, the campus did make a statement for itself as a need of the design brief without compromising the humane aspect of it. The cultural and intellectual sharing platform to date holds the same power position in today’s architectural context, marking its existence as a masterpiece.

Author

Sanjana is a young architect with keen interest in place making and urban theories. It's the stories of the spaces and it's expressions, which got her exploring the field of journalism.

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