CON­STRUCT­ING A LAN­GUAGE OF THE MOD­ERN

Domus - - CONFETTI - Text Ram Rah­man, Vishal K Dar

A re­cent ex­hi­bi­tion cu­rated by Ram Rah­man aptly doc­u­ments the cre­ation of iconic ar­chi­tec­tural spa­ces dur­ing the era of the Nehru­vian State — which be­gan when In­dia was at the thresh­old of de­vel­op­ment and moderni­sa­tion — re­flect­ing upon their unique struc­tural logic and the close ties be­tween ar­chi­tec­ture and na­tion-build­ing projects Delhi: Build­ing the Mod­ern show­cases key ar­chi­tects and build­ings which de­fined mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture in Delhi in the Nehru­vian years (1950-1975), Habib Rah­man, Achyut Kan­vinde, Joseph Stein, Raj Re­wal, Kuldip Singh, JK Chowd­hury, and en­gi­neer Ma­hen­dra Raj fea­ture in it. The ex­hibit was as­sem­bled around the ex­ist­ing col­lec­tion in the Ki­ran Nadar Mu­seum of Art’s mod­ern ar­chi­tec­ture pho­to­graphs of Delhi by Madan Ma­hatta. Those had been ac­quired from an ear­lier show I had cu­rated at Pho­toink Gallery.

I built the ex­hibit around those pho­to­graphs by get­ting orig­i­nal mod­els from the ar­chi­tects of those build­ings in the pho­to­graphs — Raj Re­wal, Kuldip Singh and Kan­vinde, Rai and Chowd­hury. Ma­hen­dra Raj had been con­sult­ing en­gi­neer for al­most all those build­ings, and I was able to get many en­gi­neer­ing draw­ings of those projects. My intention was to show the cre­ation of the build­ings from in­side the gut — as it were. Most of the mod­els and none of the draw­ings had been shown in pub­lic be­fore.

I added many pho­to­graphs of his own build­ings by the ar­chi­tect Habib Rah­man, par­tic­u­larly of early build­ings and hous­ing from the 1950s and early 1960s. Is­sues of De­sign mag­a­zine have been dis­played in vit­rines show­ing the re­mark­able range of de­sign and crit­i­cism which was an im­por­tant part of the dis­course in the pe­riod.

De­sign pub­lished cri­tiques of many of the build­ings on dis­play along with es­says on tex­tile, in­dus­trial, fur­ni­ture de­sign, as well as art crit­i­cism. Wall mu­rals done by MF Hu­sain and Satish Gu­jral were an im­por­tant part of these build­ings and con­nect the open­ing ar­chi­tec­ture sec­tion with the gal­leries which fol­low, es­pe­cially of Hu­sain’s paint­ings and draw­ings from the 1950s. The ar­chi­tec­ture sec­tion ex­pands the his­tory of In­dian mod­ernism and folds into the de­vel­oped anal­y­sis of mod­ern art in In­dia, ar­chi­tec­ture never hav­ing been a part of the re­ceived his­tory.

Ram Rah­man

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