As I started studying Raj Rewal‘s working drawings of dwellings while working for him in his Sheikh Sarai office in Delhi, I got to know Satish Gujral, who had been Mr Rewal’s client. In keeping with Rewal’s distinctive style of residential architecture, Satish Gujral’s Lajpat Nagar home in Delhi is simple with bare ceilings and exposed brick walls.

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The multi-faceted personality of Satish Gujral_©IANS

Reflection of Memories | Satish Gujral

I had no idea at the time that he was related to a former prime minister. Instead, I was familiar with him as a renowned artist who had been honing his craft since he was nine years old, a year after an accident had left him deaf. He consistently diversified the medium and materials he used, which helped his work stand out from his earlier works. One of India’s greatest and most prolific painters, Satish Gujral is renowned for creating some of the most exquisite sculptures, paintings, and murals.

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Satish Gujral and the pain he witnessed in the Partition of the country_ ©TheHindu

Satish Gujral’s life was significantly impacted by the country’s partition. Paintings featuring ominous depictions of men and women reflected all of his emotions. His paintings, which are characterized by agony, grief, and despair, are where one may find the most powerful representations of emotional outbursts.

Encounter with Frank Lloyd Wright

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Frank Llyod Wright’s Fallingwater is not just his most beautiful expression of architecture but also a National Historic Landmark_ ©Sxenko

After attending the Mayo School of Arts in Lahore in 1939 to study applied arts, Satish enrolled in the Sir JJ School of Art in 1944. He received a grant from the Mexican consulate and went to Mexico in 1952. Diego Rivera, a well-known artist, mentored him during his apprenticeship in Mexico. American architect Frank Llyod Wright, who is regarded as the founder of modern architecture, was close friends with Diego Rivera, one of the greatest painters of his time.

During his time as a student studying in Mexico, Satish encountered Frank Llyod while he was visiting his friend Diego.  Why did he never request Diego Rivera to create a mural for any of his buildings, even though both Rivera and Wright were well-known artists and architects? Satish, the young, inquisitive student, asked Frank Llyod Wright.

In response, Frank Llyod Wright said he would only paint a mural on a wall if it was part of an unfinished structure or a deserted wall. Frank’s claim that creating a mural for architecture amounted to depriving both media of their independence attracted Satish Gujral.

And this encounter served as Satish Gujral’s introduction to architecture as a medium, which turned out to be a pivotal point in his life.

Architecture as an art | Satish Gujral

There are numerous examples of non-architects who, when they designed a building, turned it into a masterpiece, including Michelangelo, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright. So, for a sculptor, an architectural shape becomes a sculpture, and for an artist, a painting.

With the introduction of architecture as a medium, this encounter also served as a turning point in Satish Gujral’s life. He devoted his entire life to attempting to communicate the notion that anything one chooses to create is an act of art and that architecture is not fundamentally distinct from other forms of art.

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Satish Gujral and his sculptural architectural facade_ ©MIT

Throughout his professional career, Satish Gujral never wavered from his conviction that anything one chooses to produce is an act of art and that architecture is not a separate discipline from art.

The pathway to architecture

Gujral began his independent study of architecture without any formal academic instruction in 1977 after producing significant ceramic, tile, and machined steel murals overseas and in India. 

Due to his self-taught methodology, he was able to construct several well-known structures, including the Gandhi Institute in Mauritius (1978–1979) and the Belgian Embassy in New Delhi (1980-83). He designed Goa University, the CMC, Hyderabad, and other institutions in 1986. Al Moughtara Palace in Riyadh, the Prime Minister’s residence in Bahrain, the Indira Gandhi Cultural Center in Mauritius, the Al Bwardy House in Dubai, the Jindal Farmhouse in New Delhi, and the Mexx Farmhouse in New Delhi are just a few of his other notable architectural creations. 

Like Frank Lloyd Wright, Satish did not pursue formal architectural education. He faced fierce opposition from the Indian architectural community when he designed the Belgian Embassy in New Delhi. Despite not having received any formal education in architecture, Le Corbusier not only planned the city but also designed the buildings for Chandigarh. Amid this debate, the Indian Council of Architecture issued Satish a license to practice architecture.

The Belgian Embassy project | Satish Gujral

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The iconic Belgian Embassy designed by Satish Gujral_ © Embassy of Belgium in New Delhi

Because of the controversy that followed the hiring of an artist to design it, the Belgian Embassy project often comes to mind when Satish Gujral is mentioned as an architect.

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Belgian Embassy, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, looks stunning during a light show_© BelgiumMFA

A sculptor’s solution, the entire complex is made to resemble sculptures rather than actual buildings. All of the structures’ exposed brick exteriors are exquisitely adorned with brick arches, window openings, domes, and skylights of various sizes that let in natural light.

Satish Gujral advanced brick architecture by creating this building, in addition to carrying on India’s ancient tradition of brick construction.

Belgian Embassy and the style of architecture which became Satish Gujral’s statement in Architecture_ ©MIT

Satish Gujral is one of those personalities whose names will live on in history, especially in the field where he produced outstanding works using a variety of expressions and mediums. The imprints he leaves behind are what continue to represent his artistic prowess and cultural achievements. As seen by his magnificent artistic masterpieces and architectural marvels, he was the maestro who had a huge influence on both Indian architecture and modern art.


Banerjee, D. (2014) Interviews With Thought Leaders: Shri Satish Gujral, ZingyHomes. Available at: (Accessed: December 24, 2022).


Sadiq Zafar is a practicing architect, urban policy researcher, and planner who previously worked for a national research institute and held the position of assistant professor at the Jamia Millia Islamia in New Delhi. He researched urban poor housing neighborhoods while working as a sustainability planner in Gonda, Uttar Pradesh.