Architecture Raj Rewal Associates
National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi
The National Institute of Immunology (NII) in New Delhi designed by Raj Rewal in 1990 was a key project in his oeuvre of institutional and housing projects articulating his approach towards a language that was contemporary from an Indian perspective. A set of cases such as the morphology of towns and cities like Jaisalmer or Udaipur became very crucial in defining this language for modern and contemporary building in India. And this was worked out through precise detailing of architectural elements as well as designing the use of material, such as sandstone. Integrating structure, form, and historical references has been the mainstay of Rewal’s oeuvre, and the campus for NII articulated this into a set of a beautiful sequence of spaces as well as architectural experiences. The campus is now seen as an urban neighbourhood and an intimate series of spaces — interconnected courtyards and terraces, projecting jharokha-type structures, and framed pathways. The exact logic and articulations are continued in the recently completed phase of the campus. Rewal’s architecture has consistently extended a set of historical references into present times in the belief of a timelessness he associates with certain architectural formulations, and a spatio-visual typology has emerged quite uniquely from his experiments. To extract his works from the readings of Indianness and the formula of the Indian-modern may actually allow one to read and draw out a design typology that produces visual encounters through spatial narratives, and often the jugalbandi between space and visuality interesting tilting the balance in one way or another. A language of visual elements as compositions seen through certain spatial formations and narratives is the constant struggle in Rewal’s buildings, and in more recent projects, his mastery over this methodology of design has allowed him to be more playful, bolder, experimental. In this scenario, to visit a campus designed by him earlier, and recently completing another phase of it, may actually help in reviewing an architectural journey beyond formulaic theses or staple labels of Indianness and so on.