CONSTRUCTING A LANGUAGE OF THE MODERN
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.