Raj Rewal’s projects display a different architectural language. His art of amalgamating the architectural designs into the functionality of the space and its surroundings has the essence of Indian culture. It blends in, with the modern times of technology and renewable energy designs. This makes his buildings aesthetically appealing to the eyes, the mind, and the body equally. Raj Rewal uses passive energy-saving systems in his designs, making his designs more humane, ethical, and sustainable. He is a pioneer in weaving the expressions of history and cultural heritage into a contemporary vocabulary. 

Raj Rewal believes that the soul of each structure should evolve from its surroundings and its concerns while addressing environmental issues. Keeping these thoughts in mind, Rewal draws upon features like light and shadows, space modulation, and materiality and craft. 

The Parliament Library Preconditions

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The Parliament Library Building located adjacent to the Parliament House. Photo: Raj Rewal Associates

The Parliament Library building is one such marvel, located at the heart of Sir Edward Lutyens’ urban design for New Delhi. The site is next to the Parliament House. The library building was to be designed in such a way that it adapts to modern times and also complements the majestic heritage from the British colonial period. The colonial plan of New Delhi is a strong imperial representation with a sacrosanct environment that is symbolic of the highest political ideals of today’s Indian state. It is an example of post-colonial Indian architecture that responds well to its monumental surroundings – which subtly shines in originality and ingenuity.   

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Top View of the Parliament Library Building. Photo: Raj Rewal Associates

The Parliament Library Building of Raj Rewal is a structure that incorporates the challenge of building a structure for a mass population at low costs. The site measures 10 acres (4 hectares) with a built-up area of 55,000sqm. The site has a lot of trees on the Northwestern corner and thus, leaves the square plan incomplete. 

Design Philosophy and Concept

Raj Rewal’s aim in designing the Parliament Library building was to signify the symbol of knowledge and show spiritual elegance rather than overshadowing the ‘power’ of the Parliament.  

He took inspiration from the traditional relationship between the Guru and the King – the Library being the Guru and the Parliament House being the King. The Guru retains the command of his knowledge while recognising the power of the King. This way, the library would have a unique identity of its own, while respecting the Parliament building. 

To show this concept in his structure, Raj Rewal decided to keep two of the four floors of the library underground. Thus aligning the terrace of the library with the podium level of the Parliament house. Only the domes of the library rise above. This gives an unobstructed view of the colonnade and entablature of the Parliament.  

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Unobstructed View of the Parliament house. Photo: Raj Rewal Associates

Planning, Massing, and Space Usage 

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Square and Symmetrical planning with Charbagh concept. Photo: Raj Rewal Associates

The architectural style and planning are stimulated from the pre-colonial Indian architecture of the Taj Mahal which showcases its square base and symmetrical composition. It is also inspired by the ancient Indian mandala that has a deep existential and spiritual meaning. When used in temple architecture of ancient central India, it is said to give the user a spiritual and calming experience. 

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Colored marble floor pattern in the form of a yantra, an ancient Indian graphic that aids meditation. Photo : Raj Rewal Associates 

Another inspiration is from western India’s Adinatha temple at Ranakpur. Its cardinal axes meet at the center and courtyards in the remaining areas. Courtyards have social and climatic advantages and also promote intellectual encounters. Courtyards also keep the atmosphere cool and dust-free which is much needed in Delhi’s hot summers. 

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Regionally quarried sandstone characterizes the Parliament Library in New Delhi, India by architect Raj Rewal. Photo: Raj Rewal Associates

Internally, the light defines its spaces. Light enters through the three courtyards and twelve domes. The library building can accommodate three million volumes on the two underground floors and has all the new networks and facilities for multimedia and satellite links. 

The corners of the squares and the nodes of the axes are designated for various functions. The axes and the outlines of the squares form pathways. All courtyards symbolize an aspect of the Indian Constitution – an amphitheatre symbolising the freedom of expression, a pool of water symbolising equality, trees in the third courtyard representing social justice. 

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The calm pond in one courtyard symbolizes equality. Photo: Raj Rewal Associates

Structural Systems, Materials, and Textures 

Structural Systems are based on the new and changing innovative technologies and the spatial enclosures based on passive energy control systems of shaded interlinked courtyards. These spaces create a series of experiences, interconnected yet distinct from one another. 

The external façade has red sandstone cladding to match the colonial structures and geometrical jali patterns on the walls that resemble the ones seen in ancient Indian architectural structures. The use of jalis in pre-colonial Indian architecture was for decoration, for diffusing sunlight, and to create a permeable barrier between two spaces – visually and audibly connected. The jalis are craftily merged to create a typical Indian look. 

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Hand crafted stone jalis are used throughout the building. Photo: Raj Rewal Associates

The domes are of various sizes and are constructed of lightweight Ferro cement, bright steel lattice and tensile cables, structural glass, and glass bricks – the tensile forces being transferred through the tubular steel frames. The central dome pours down daylight to the lower floors, which illuminates the whole labyrinth of knowledge i.e. the library. It also provides a view of the sky to its visitors. Conventional reflective glass is used for the domes to reduce glare and resist heat transfer.

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Different Domes of the Library Building and the view from below. Photo: Raj Rewal Associates
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The glass dome above the central core illuminating the lower floors_Photo Raj Rewal Associates.
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The glass dome above the central core_Photo Raj Rewal Associates

The central glass dome adorns the structure with respect to its surroundings. A roof garden provides a gathering space for scholars and parliamentarians in the winter and acts as a thermal barrier in the summer. 

Other structural elements of the building are made of reinforced concrete and to cover long spans, the slabs are coffered.  

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Rooftop Garden of the Parliament Library Building. Photo: Raj Rewal Associates

Foundation of a Democratic Monumentality for Modern India 

The Parliament Library Building is one of the most monumental public buildings built in India post-independence. It has the right expressive quality that celebrates India’s pluralistic architectural traditions. Its form and design showcase India’s composite culture symbolizing an implicit and diverse democracy. 

Raj Rewal has created a contemporary masterpiece that uses an interesting mix of innovative technology, modernity, regionalism, and traditional Indian architecture. Whether the users understand the ‘rasa’ or the essence of the design is difficult to discern but Indians are proud of the new Parliament Library building. 

Author

A learner at heart, she finds happiness in feeding her curiosity by exploring new things and finding new art. An Architect, who reflects upon the world through her eyes and paints it with words!

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