There are structures having religious significance, there are structures having historic significance, and then there are a few; for those, the memories they create is their true value! Today we go through such rare iconic structures that once represented the New Nation. The nation that gained independence from colonial rule and its architecture and went on to express a brand-new, hot off the fire, modernist aesthetic; back then in the 1960s and 1980s, a time when New Delhi was the capital of post-independence, India was rapidly expanding. This expansion journey of the capital city introduced us to the first face of Brutalist Architecture in India.
Brutalism is a form of modernism where generally decorative elements, added over the walls to hide the building materials, are omitted. This meant the frame of the building, its mechanical system, and the building’s concrete structure were exposed as the finished façade. All these components were designed to be seen and celebrated, so as to express the brutal honesty of the structure.
Below is the list of 10 such iconic structures beautifying Delhi.
1. IIT Delhi | Iconic Structures
Architect: J. K. Choudhury, 1968.
One of the city’s earliest Brutalist structures and probably the most iconic one as well; this premier academic institution that hosts the finest minds of the nation is all about a blend of art, architecture, and knowledge. Its exposed staircases and candid structural elements look as if they are having a conversation with the users.
Probably that’s how groundbreaking ideas and innovations come out of this campus; justified isn’t it!
2. Akbar Hotel
Architect: Shiv Nath Prasad, 1969.
If Delhi is the political and administrative capital of India, ‘Chanakyapuri neighborhood’ where this colossal Akbar Hotel is sited, is the diplomatic enclave of Delhi where you can also find a majority of foreign embassies and even the Prime Minister’s residence.
The heavy massing, along with the bold design form and straight lines blueprint the no-nonsense attitude of the brutalist movement. Akbar Hotel is a classic brutalist building prototype.
3. Shri Ram Centre | Brutalist Architects
Architect: Shiv Nath Prasad, 1969.
Dubbed as one of the best-known theatres in Delhi for performing arts and one of the iconic structures; the visibly unorthodox Shri Ram Centre constructed in the same year as the Akbar Hotel are both landmark projects of Ar. Shiv Nath Prasad.
The unconventional, off-the-beat geometry of the structure expresses the brutal nature with its bold massing. Its exposure is its beauty!
4. Polish Embassy | Brutalist Architecture
Architect: Witold Cęckiewicz, 1973.
Undoubtedly one of the most exciting modernist structures in the city, the Polish Embassy is a true gem.
It’s so open and inviting in nature that you can feel a connection with the building right away, and I suppose that’s the case with a lot of brutalist structures. The most beautiful thing about the building is that the exposed structural details and its raw mold make you understand the building from the inside-out.
5. Hall of Nations, Pragati Maidan | Iconic Structures
Architect: Raj Rewal, 1972.
Sometimes death tells you the importance of life.
If these stand true to us humans, it does so for buildings as well!
On April 24th, 2017; Delhi’s, as well as India’s architectural community, reacted in shock and revolt to the news that the “Hall of Nations” had been demolished. Probably the world’s first and largest-span space-frame structure built by using reinforced concrete. The demolition met widespread condemnation and revolt by architects and historians alike. This, however, sparked the rebirth of love for brutalist architecture. And just as they say, “sometimes, something happens for a reason”.
6. NCDC Building
Architect: Kuldip Singh, 1980
Some identify it with brutalism, others recall the Madurai Meenakshi temple while passing over, and ‘the legendary Delhi auto-wallahs’ know it as the pyjama building; because that’s what the building shape reflects. Two zig-zag concrete wings reaching the top, with a central corridor that ties the wings and service core together.
“The building carries itself visually and structurally”, says the designer Kuldip Singh.
7. Tibet House
Architect: Shiv Nath Prasad, 1974.
Founded at the request of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for cultural preservation of Tibet‘s ancient traditions of philosophy, mind, science & art. It is an almost square box raised on a relatively smaller base, with no added ornamentations; clean and elegant.
Wonder why the brutalist movement faced harsh criticism from the early 21st century; maybe we started wanting fancy from our buildings, what a loss!
8. NDMC Palika Kendra | Brutalist Architects
Architect: Kuldip Singh, 1983.
A counterpart reflection of the NCDC building; this one is the later example of an exposed concrete structure, as both being designed by the same architect.
An expressive concrete structure with a curved base, the NCDC building, adds up to the list of brutalist structures in Delhi that have been an integral part of the memories of every Delhiite who witnessed the post-independence period with uttermost love and affection for its new nation.
Another unifying thread between quite a few of these buildings, including Akbar Hotel, Shri Ram Centre, and the Hall of Nations, is the structural engineer associated with all of them: Mahendra Raj, also deserves the credit for the designs of these memorials.
9. Chanakya Cinema Hall | Brutalist Architecture
Architect: P. N. Mathur, 1970.
The iconic cinema house that remained to be the heart-throb of almost every youth of Delhi in the 1980s and ’90s isn’t really there anymore!
The cinema hall proudly displayed its structural components on its skin, with the exterior following the shape of the auditorium inside. Today, ‘Chanakya Mall’ stands on the soils of the land filled with ruins of the iconic cinema hall.
Heart-breaking right; can’t help, the world isn’t a fair place anymore!
10. National Dairy Development Board | Iconic Structures
Architect: Achyut Kanvinde, 1978.
It can’t go any more brutal and beautiful than this! Designed by yet another inspirational architect of India, the NDDB building breaks all the orthodox beautification ideas by merely using colossal concrete blocks to express the emotions of the structure.
Whatever the reason may be for the decline of brutalist architecture. If it is difficult to voice the beauty of a building with ornamentation and use of different materials; it is way more difficult to express that in the brutalist style.
I pardon, we should all give it a try least for one of our designs!