Architecture is not only a tangible art but rather a milestone to emphasize authenticity and identity, besides all the cultural traditions that shape every place’s uniqueness. It is a three-dimensional book that tells tales and stories of everything that every country has gone through and shaped its history. There are people who were responsible for these turning points, as they were part of their country’s history and devoted their lives to fighting for its rights. Some of them the upcoming generations must know about their stories, which shouldn’t marginalize them.
Jawaharlal Nehru was a principal leader of the Indian nationalist movement in the 1930s and 1940s and served India as the country’s prime minister for 17 years. Indians consider him as a representation of the spirit of new India and the austere values of Gandhi. Thus, the Indian architect Raj Rewal was commissioned to design a small memorial museum that would symbolize Nehru as he is known for the mark his buildings leave on Indian culture and heritage. According to what he said: “My concern was how to design a memorial for an intellectual and a statesman who would have detested any pompous monument in his memory”.
Raj Rewal was inspired by the earliest Buddhist Stupa in Nepal, mounds containing relics of Buddha. It was built to be part of a grassy mound of earth. It is located in Pragati Maidan, a part of 130 acres of Exhibition ground designed by Raj Rewal in New Delhi. The Pavilion consists of an exhibition hall itself arranged on two levels, which exhibits the life and times of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru Pavilion is one of the first green modern buildings because glass bricks provide subdued natural light, and the external surface is all green. The circulation of the exhibition is based on ‘Parikrama’, a movement around a central structure. The plan was resembling the Cosmo-graphs called ‘Mandalas’.
The upper exhibition hall had the Audio-Visual room highlighting his speeches and small documentary films on his life from the archives, with a stepped roof in the center in a pyramid shape containing glass bricks that provide subdued natural lighting, in addition to four corner windows that allow ventilation for the lower spaces. The lower exhibition hall presents photos for documents about him and his achievements. Besides, some of his belongings, as a way of telling his story and what accomplished for his country India.
Rewal used materials that added a sense of elegance to the space by using Kota stone for flooring and teak for the doors and windows. Besides, subdued lighting came from artificial lighting lamps, which are fixed in the needed direction that will make the visitors feel relatable to the history of this great leader of India. In order to connect the building with the surrounding, he made social gathering stairs, as he used the pyramid roof and the grassy slopes as a recreational area for children.
The Pavilion now
The architect community presented a lot of petitions to the authorities to maintain the pavilion as it is, but it was partially demolished by the India Trade Promotion Organization (ITPO). The demolishing process wasn’t only for the Nehru Pavilion but it also included the Hall of Nations. The upper level was destroyed, and the lower level was intact but was badly maintained. It is a pity that the history of such an unforgettable man who was such an important part of the history of India has come to such an unfortunate end.
Despite, the unfortunate end that ended with a historic building like Nehru Pavilion, in 2014, the model of the pavilion was presented in the exhibition on “Modernite Pluriel”, or Alternate modernity, in the Pompidou Museum, Paris, as the curator considered the pavilion to have a universal value.
The ultimate beauty in the building lies in the details that the architect Raj Rewal paid attention to and that made the memorial, despite its simplicity and clearness of its lines, express the historical personality of Jawaharlal Nehru, and tell his story through these details. This leaves no place for doubt about the ability of Raj Rewal to create the required spirit embodied by the building and how the natural light plays an important role in his designs. Rewal’s architectural style meets sustainability standards easily way before it became popular, which now some architects find a little bit challenging.
Rewal is a patriot who believes in the resources of his country which he has put to good use to build its architectural heritage, he said: “Traditional Indian architecture based on craftsmanship has always respected and exploited the nature of materials such as stone, bronze, and wood, and made no distinction between the functional, the decorative, and the symbolic.”.
- Nehru Memorial Pavilion (2022). Raj Rewal Associates [online] (last updated 2020) available at: https://rajrewal.in/wp/portfolio/nehru-memorial-pavilion/ [Accessed 5.Jul.2022].
- Nehru Pavilion demolition plan reeks of vindictive stance: Rewal (2022). THE HINDU [online] (last updated 15.Jun.2017) available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/nehru-pavilion-demolition-plan-reeks-of-vindictive-stance-rewal/article19051398.ece [Accessed 5.Jul.2022].