Domus

Architectu­re Raj Rewal Associates

- Photos by Ferrante Ferranti and Architectu­ral Reseacrh Cell

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 Integratin­g structure, form, and historical references has been the mainstay of Rewal’s oeuvre, and the campus for NII articulate­d this into a set of a beautiful sequence of spaces as well as architectu­ral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 Rewal’s architectu­re has consistent­ly extended a set of historical references into present times in the belief of a timelessne­ss he associates with certain architectu­ral formulatio­ns, and a spatio-visual typology has emerged quite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.

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