Demolition of Hall of Nations: Concerns from across the world went unheard
Zurich’s Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the Federation of Swiss Architects wrote to the commerce minister Niramala Sitahraman in February.
Iconic structures Hall of Nations and Hall of Industries in New Delhi were razed despite various concerns raised by heritage conservationists, urban planning and conservation consultants and architects from India and abroad.
About half a dozen bulldozers worked overnight on April 23 at Pragati Maidan to pull down five iconic buildings — Hall of Nations and Hall of Industries (a cluster of four buildings).
The five structures — one of Hall of Nations and four of Hall of Industries — were commissioned in 1972 and the architect claims that these were the world’s first pillar-less concrete frame structures.
Zurich’s Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the Federation of Swiss Architects wrote to the commerce minister Niramala Sitahraman in February asking the government to preserve these buildings and termed them as part of India’s cultural heritage and an example of engineering marvels.
International Union of Architects (UIA) had earlier written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to ensure protection, preservation and maintenance of the trio. UIA is a global federation of national associations of architects from more than 120 countries representing more than 1.3 million architects worldwide.
“These iconic structures are living testimony to India’s contribution to contemporary architecture and engineering excellence known internationally. Hall of Nations, Industries and Nehru Pavilion are national assets and a ‘heritage in the making’ which should be preserved, protected and maintained,” wrote Ar Esa Mohamed, UIA president, in his letter to the PM.
Designed by architect Raj Rewal, 80, structural engineer Mahendra Raj and project engineer Dorai Raj in 1971, Hall of Nations and Industries together spanned across 2 lakh sq feet, all in concrete frame. Over 1,000 labourers were involved in constructing the three structures.
Awarding the Hall of Nations a sobriquet of world’s first Concrete Space Frame, the Federation of Swiss Architects said, “This building was world’s first Concrete Space Frame and continues to be the largest until today. Precise planning by the structural engineer Mahendra Raj and architect Raj Rewal as well as manual execution of the structure by innumerable construction workers are unparalleled achievements in the field of engineering...”
Raj Rewal had earlier said the Hall of Nations accounted for 2% of the 123 acre area of Pragati Maidan and all three buildings together about 7%.
“I don’t understand why can’t a small patch be spared demolition and these buildings be protected, preserved and hence promoted as cultural heritage monuments,” he said
A joint statement issued by Rewal, Raj, former convener of INTACH, Delhi Chapter AGK Menon and president, Indian Institute of Architects Divya Kush on Monday said, “The independent body of the Indian Institute of Architects and the different Associations’ of Engineers had requested the authorities to preserve these buildings for posterity for their unique achievements. INTACH had pleaded in their court case to do the same.”
On Monday, the ITPO CMD LC Goyal said the layout plan of IECC, which inevitably involves demolition of these structures, has already been approved by the concerned statutory authorities like Delhi Urban Arts Commission, South Delhi Municipal Corporation and National Monuments Authority.