FRAME National Conference on Architecture and Design


Our first Speaker this afternoon is a photographer, artist, curator, designer and activist Ram Rahman initially studied physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology later he completed a degree in graphic design from Yale University School of Art in 1979. Born in 1955. Ram has shown his photographs in individual and group shows across India and the world. He has been lecturing on aspects of contemporary Indian photography and architecture in the last few years at the doctor. How does real art museum, Mumbai rayona of revonnah Mumbai, Moma in New York the Pompidou centre in Paris including major lectures on Sunil Janah, Raghuveer Singh and the modern architecture of New Delhi. Ram is also one of the founding members of the South are Hashmi Memorial trust in New Delhi. It gives me great pleasure in inviting Ram Rahman onto the stage.


Hello, everyone, please wake up after lunch.




I'd like to thank quickly Ruturaj, FRAME, Takshila and Johnson for organizing, conceiving and hosting this amazing conclave and I'm so happy to see so many young people and young students. I don't think I've spoken to so many students at one go.


Basically, you know my approach to what I'm talking about has come through photography. I'm not really a historian. I'm only here because my father who you see their Habib Rahman was an architect and I grew up in the milieu of many of the architects whose work will be discussed today, but I will begin very quickly.


In a tribute to some of my Goan friends, these are pictures I did of Mario Miranda and Charles Correa number of years ago. Donna Sylvia, is that right Monica? Yeah, so tribute to them tribute to these fantastic people who came out of Goa and did amazing work. I first came here in 1986.


It was for architecture and design magazine at that time edited by Razia Grover.


And my introduction to Goa was actually Goan modernism in architecture. I came here to photograph the work of Ralino D'Souza, Peter Scriver mentioned him earlier today, and I'm happy he did, also Sarto Almeida and Lucio Miranda amongst many others and these were wonderful issues at the time when much of this work had actually not been seen in the rest of India so salute to these architects.


My father studied in MIT in the 1940s during the war. He was one of the first Indian students to study in the US and the first to study architecture and he did both bachelor's degree and a master's degree graduating in 1944.


Walter gropius was teaching in Harvard the neighbouring college, but there was an informal dialogue between the two schools and Gropius had been a huge influence on my father particularly his study of public housing.


He comes back to Calcutta in 1946 during the Great killings riding over the dead bodies lying on the streets being eaten by vultures. That was the terrible time of riots in August 1946. And he joins the Bengal PWD, which had actually he got a West Bengal state government scholarship to go to MIT.


One of the things I'd like to mention right in the beginning was my father was one of the few Architects with that kind of training who remained a public works architect through his entire career. He never went into private practice because he believed that the PWD and government architecture government housing Etc was where he could make the most mark in the new nation. I'm showing you these very early buildings 1949 women's college in Hoogly Police barracks in alipore, Tollygunge police wireless club to show the kind of work that was coming out of his training. You can see that, you know, very simplistic Bauhaus block building. Of course. This was a time when resources were extremely tight. We didn't have a lot of money. We didn't even have a lot of cement or steel but one of the reasons I wanted to show this is to talk about how you don't modern modern architecture actually begins very early on in the late 40s both with my father and with Kanvinde and I’ll speak a little bit about Kanvinde shortly. This was the first project my father built many of you may know of this which is Gandhi ghat the first memorial to Gandhi which was built on the Hooghly.


And as a young architect, young student who had not built anything he found this a challenge but ended up making this tribute, which was a combination of a Shikar ,a mosque dome and an abstracted cross reflected in the water of the river. Jawahar Lal Nehru came to open this in 1949. Gandhiji, of course had been assassinated in 1948. And this was the first Memorial to come up.


And Nehru loved the project at the site and asked to meet the architect. My father said that almost no one use the word architect at least in North India and those days you know, they thought engineers were the people who build buildings. And Nehru said that you must come to Delhi because we need people like you to build the new capital.




He did almost 80 projects in West Wing world before finally moving to Delhi 1953. This is the new Secretariat of the first tall steel frame skyscraper in India and for Bengal’s it became a big this about finished in 1953-54 but started the construction started much earlier became a big thing for pride in Bengal and the new architecture.


This is the Bengal engineering College, which was finished 1954. Roughly. The earlier pictures were pictures taken by my father. This is by me and it shows you the very typical block kind of building that these Architects at that time were doing.


1939 is the first time he came to Delhi much of New Delhi had not been built. This is 1933 an image of Shah Jahan Abad showing the wall of the city on this side, which was torn down after Independence to become a safari Road and the business district. It shows you actually the scale of what the old capital of the Mughals was.


And this was what the British had built. This is also 1933. This was Imperial Delhi and much of the rest of Delhi was completely barren land and that's one of the distinctions of what happens with the building of Delhi and why Delhi became such an important site for modernist building?


This is a CSIR building by Achyuth Kanvinde and that’s him with Shaukath Ray the engineer. And I'm so pleased in a sense that because of the controversy of Charles’ Kala Bhavan  that the conference moved here. And this is a CSIR site and I didn't know until this morning that Kanvinde had built the building next door also now, this is very important because what was happening in Delhi at the time was all the institutions for science, for the Arts, for governance, The law courts were being built in Nehruvian New Delhi .The British had built a very impressive Imperial ruling buildings, but there was no housing for government staff there were only Barracks remaining from the Second World War British and American barracks across the whole of New Delhi. This is the CSIR building a couple years ago on which few years later, well actually in the 60s MF Hussain did this giant mural and the mural is of Nehru and Science and Hussein actually also figures in this story of the new nation the nation building. He almost became like a national artist figure and in many ways him being exiled after being attacked by the BJP is he was a harbinger to what we are now facing many years later, but it's you know, it's


These are histories which I think Prem talked about re looking reimagining re dreaming these histories and so very important history of our building the new nation and this whole Vision that Nehru had of bringing these young Architects to Delhi.


At that point which this is the Kingsway camp. This is after partition people forget that you had a huge influx from Punjab. This is 300,000 people who are housed in these tents in the early 50s late 40s, and this is what the city had to accommodate and build at a very very high speed for.


This is 1953-54 international exhibition on low-cost housing. This was an emphasis of Nehru that we have to bring people from all over India- Engineers, architects who actually built low cost small-scale housing as models in what became Pragati maidan which was land next to the Old Fort in Delhi.


This was a hugely important initiative with an amazing publication which gave details of every single project which had come with plans with material costs per square foot per square foot costs. And from this model, which was done by my father for the PWD came this housing in Ramakrishna Puram between 1955 and 59. These were two bedroom very simple two room actually not even to bed room to room flats which were built on a huge scale in the thousands and they became known as Rahman Flats because they were actually very comfortable to live in they were full of light. They were very practical and this kind of housing was very much inspired by the Bauhaus influence, which he got in the US and the mix that he had was both Bauhaus modernism and American modernism, which was you know in Vogue in the 40s and the US it was his wonderful mix because of Hitler having exiled all the Architects and shutting down bound about her school 1933.


This was the housing.


These were all the institutional buildings at the UGC building, the controller auditor-general building. This was the infrastructure which was coming up much of it in ITO in Delhi and you can see the style of the buildings. The tall building is also by Habib and that was built later with the diagonal crosses at the end.


This is 1954 the post office Central post office building on Patel Chowk.


In the 1950s Maulana Azad whose tomb this is was conceiving the three academies of culture The Lalith Kala academy, The Sahitya Academy and the Sangeet Natak Academy, which were to be housed in a building that was to be built and was to be launched in commemoration of Rabindranath Tagore's Centenary 1961.


Maulana Azad passed away and Nehru asked my father to do his tomb in front of the Jama Masjid.


And this is what my father came up with. It was an arch which was derived from the arch of the entrance to the mosque exactly the same proportion, but done in very thin shalt concrete with a marble Terrazzo finish .Because of his engineering background my father was able to work with concrete quite well .Nehru loved this project.


Oh, I'm sorry under on the right was very important seminar for architecture in 1959 presided over by human Kabir who was Milan azad's assistant where all the young Architects had come from across India to discuss the whole nature of you know was there to be a national style was there to be a modern National style for Indian architecture?


And the papers that were presented with published in this wonderful booklet, which I think has been reprinted but a very important, you know architecture was a subject which was very important for the state and really driven by Nehru. I forgot to include the cover of a book that came out at Nehru Centenary which was Nehru’s writings and speeches on architecture and urbanism published by the National Urban something I've forgotten. Its a hundred and sixty page book and no leader. I know anywhere in the world I think up to now has ever written on conservation issues on sanitation on planning on architecture as much as an Nehru has


This is courtesy Sanjay Kanvinde, which I was very surprised to find in Sanjay’s office. This was the first on the left the project model for Rabindra Bhavan, which my father came up with and I've and found this in Sanjay’s office picture of Kanvinde on the left with the very grimacing Nehru looking at what was the model of Rabindra Bhavan.


And it's a very funny picture because Nehru hated the project and he got furious when he saw it and yelled at my father saying what this is? This looks like an office building. This looks like UGC building. It has nothing to do with Guru Dev., with Tagore.


He said, you know you've done the Maulana Azad, you've done the Gandhi ghat which had the spirit of India in them. Why have you done this, you know corporate looking building and my father said well, I've never done a large building with that kind of formal language or conception.


In a way Nehru forced him to rework it and actually worked with him to come up with what became Rabindra Bhavan and this is a picture of him showing the plans as the building all was just finished in 1961.


And this changed his complete thinking my father's thinking because he said that suddenly he felt that he broke out of that rigid Bauhaus modernist mold and could think of a stylistic modernism which was related to our culture. This was using jalis, using the quartzite stone of Delhi inspired by the Tughluq buildings and the galleries much of which have been ruined recently by redoing them shutting all the skylights which is battle that I started fighting many years ago losing battle.


And the buildings he did afterwards the WHO and Patel Bhavan had a different kind of style which emerged from Rabindra Bhavan though these were office buildings, he tried to make buildings which had some sense of beauty to them.


Curzon road apartments 1967. These are all his photographs, by the way.


And on the left is in the front is the ICCR building by Kanvinde and in the back the Indraprastha Bhavan by my father and I love this picture because they both Gropius prodigies and here are two buildings literally right next to each other in New Delhi.


This was a private commission, which my father was not supposed to do but he did it for a friend. This is the Sheila theatre the first 70mm theatre in Delhi, which is about to be torn down with the mural by Young Canadian architect passed away a few years ago, Luke Durant.


And lastly from his work two more memorials which he did on the left for Fukruddin ali Ahmed on and on the right for Zakir Hussain.


These are both in Delhi.


Coming now to the other modern architecture that was happening in Delhi at the time. This is Kanvinde Gujarat Bhavan 1960s. And on the left. You'll see Ashoka hotel with those done by doctor from the Arctic doctor from Bombay.


This set of photographs are remarkable document which were done by the great photographer Madhan Mahanta and I did a show of his work, luckily before he passed away of his architectural photographs. And these are just some of them. This is JK choudhry IIT, again a very important Institute which was built in the early 60s to the late 60s by JK Chowdhury who had come from Chandigarh, so there was this gathering of Architects who were coming from different regions and out of different schools. You had a few who came from Chandigarh had been influenced by Le Corbusier used concrete you had others like Kanvinde and my father who had had an American exposure to the Bauhaus and they work was a mix of that American and the Bauhaus.


And you had people like Edward Stone who built the American Embassy, this is JK Chowdhury IIT.


And Madhan strove of photographs actually is a treasure and when I put this show together the few architects who are still alive who saw this collection where I even in Delhi were quite astonished. They said that we'd never knew that we had done such amazing work because they hit they all knew each other's work, but seeing it at the time when it was first built pristine and perfect.


This is IIT.


Should not prashad very Corbusien and though he never worked with Le corbusier, but these highly sculptural buildings in concrete, exposed concrete.


This is Charles Correa. It's an interior shot of a very small little house. He did for Hiten mazumdar who sitting there the great textile designer also very much a part of that whole modernist movement in Delhi, which included publication of design magazine, which propagated many of these projects.


And this is Kanvinde’s Gandhi Bhavan during construction, but I love this picture because the structure is so fantastic.


These are all Madhan Mahanta by the way. This is Kanvinde in his own home in his own house.


The architect Ram Sharma in his own house.


There was a whole style that developed Raj Rewal, Ram Sharma. I would like to mention here Cyrus chavala who sometimes gets left out of these histories and Chavwala was extremely important as a teacher and taught this whole generation starting from the Delhi Polytechnic by teaching them construction by taking them to the all the Tughluq and Mughal buildings in Delhi to fatehpur sikri to Rajasthan and that whole exposure of this generation through chavala influence all the work that they started doing the use of brick use of sandstone, kuta Stone, which became kind of Delhi idiom daily modernist idiom cushions by Hiten mazumdar ,furniture by Ravi sikri and by Minni boga, this is Joseph Allen Stein, who is American trained by Saarinen and in California. This is the escorts Factory. Stein was famous for doing these incredibly fantastic roofs structures which were very light and very cheap to make but perfect for factory like this to let in a lot of light.


That's escorts on the left and the Ford Foundation Joseph Stein on the right.


Staircase in the Ford foundation and that's Joseph Steins bald head over there.


And Madhan Mahata’s feet under the camera. So it's a nice picture with a little bit of history.


Ford Foundation Hiten mazumdar hanging on the wall.


And the India International Centre also by Joseph Stein and luckily this building has been fairly well maintained has the landscape so it's still pretty much looks like this.


This is Kuldeep Singh who was partner of Raj Rewal early on until they separated into separate practices. And this is the NDMC building in New Delhi Kuldeep Singh did very graphic buildings in exposed concrete using the shuttering as a decorative device.


Kuldeep Singh on the left. You see most many of these buildings other than the IIC are all government buildings. The government at that time was the biggest Builder and except for a handful of what I'm showing you that's the Design Group on the right the Syrian Christian Church.


This is a DTDC which was the cooperatives building another institutional building.


This is Yamuna apartments by The Design Group, which is Ranjit Sabiki Ajay chowdhry. This was a housing Charles had done Tara Apartments, which is not very far from here. which also had a vocabulary not similar, but trying to do very dense housing in these, you know, interesting forms some of which were related to some of the typologies which they had seen in North Indian cities older cities.

Yamuna apartments and on the left is Kuldeep Singh’s house DDA housing in malviya nagar and on the right is Raj Rewal’s Asian Games Village again both government projects.


The DDA housing was plastered over, many years later and that brick texture completely vanished.


Two by Charles the British Council with a facade by Howard Hodgkin and the building of the LIC building.


And that's Habib Rahman on the left Hindustan Times building and Raj Rewal on the right is STC building and of course coming to the iconic Rewal tragedy in a sense the Hall of Nations. This is the building of the Hall Of Nations. And this is what was so remarkable. I think if there was a if there was an iconic modernist building in Delhi, this was it this was 1972 built for the 25th year of Independence when we had the Trade Fair, Asian Trade Fair and it was a remarkable feat of design conception and Engineering by Mahindra Raj and you hear more about his work tomorrow I think absolute genius structural engineer particularly with concrete, completely hand-built, but a high tech structure built by hand could only have been done in India.


This is my picture of the interior just actually like a year before it was torn down. So it was completely functional building.


I think this is one of you know talking about heritage and modern Heritage. I think this has been a criminal tragedy.


These the colour pictures here by Rohan shivkumar recently and I'm showing you these this is the reason half housing complex 1927 in Stuttgart which was built as a model like the trade like the housing fair in Delhi in 1954. This was built at that time as a model for public housing and very much by the Bauhaus Architects by Le Corbusier, Pierre-jean array and on the right is a postcard that was published at the time. This is in the 1930s, early 30s extolling the virtues of this housing complex and below that it's a Nazi postcard on which on that image have been superimposed these images of Arabs meaning Jews because the Jews and the Communists had become the targets and the enemies of Nazi Germany. So this is an amazing postcard to see because this ideologically they were against this kind of modernist architecture.


Now these are Rohan’s pictures done just a few weeks ago and I'm using them with his permission. This is the condition of what remains of that housing now and there's a beautiful museum with models of the housing.


And this is what's happening in Delhi. That's the housing in RK Puram by my father and that's last year. It's all being torn down and the government land is now these new buildings are going to come up half of which are being sold to corporates. That's what that's the new model of development in Delhi.


This was next to the Hall of Nations by Raj Rewal -The Nehru Pavilion which was designed to house the very famous exhibition on Jawaharlal Nehru done by Charles and Ray Eames and Ashok Chatterjee is going to speak later today may speak about this because this was a foundational exhibition which was created at NID by Charles and Ray Eames. This exhibition became famous across the world for the kind of timeline style that it developed, the visual style it developed and this the Hall of nations may not have been an ideological demolition. But this building was, because Nehru is you know is being demolished every day. Most recently. She saw the debates in Parliament on Section 370


That was the site after the demolition and nobody knows what's happened to the exhibition. It's vanished.


And this is the building that's coming up there now right behind the Crafts Museum, which is also been jazzified with marble floors and steel beams replacing all the wood Etc.


That's the building replacing the Hall of Nations.


And this is Stein's exhibition hall in the Trade Fair complex, which was also turned down after the Hall of Nations, another remarkable roof structure huge building.


And that's the WHO building on the left and that is it that was it two weeks ago.


That has been blasted down.


And this is what's coming up in its place.


On the left is a poster which is still up in the Delhi Metro and the Mandi house Metro station where they have done a tribute to some of the architecture and The Architects. That's the freaky building which I recently discovered his master Saute buta and that's the building about two months ago, which has been blasted down also.


So this is talking about heritage and the odd thing is, you know, Museum of Modern Art is going to do big show on South Asian modernism in two years and many of these buildings which were going to be shown there are no longer in existence since happened between when they conceived the show and when the shows actually going to come up,


And that's a portrait of Nehru. I did a few years ago and two hats that I designed for the people responsible for the demolition of the Hall of Nations. Thank you.

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