No. 168 . 22 October 2003 
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Parliament Library, New Delhi

by Raj Jadhav

The recently completed Parliament Library in New Delhi, India is a response to its monumental context and yet is ingenious in its originality. Designed by architect Raj Rewal, the library is a fine example of postcolonial Indian architecture. It displays high technology with a regional expression, it is modern yet rooted in precolonial history, and it responds thoughtfully to its challenging colonial and political context.

The library is adjacent to the Indian Parliament building, which is a key element of the colonial plan of the city of New Delhi. Designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker in the first half of the 20th century, the city plan includes India Gate (the National War Memorial), Rajpath (the grand ceremonial parade route), and the Rashtrapati Bhavan (the president's house, designed by Lutyens for the viceroy). Baker's Parliament building is to the north of the Rajpath.

Each of these monuments was designed to display imperial power. In the words of Lord Stamfordham, private secretary to British King George V in the early 20th century, New Delhi was designed to let Indians "see for the first time the power of Western science, art, and civilization."

Most Indian architects, I am sure, would love to challenge that arrogant remark. But Rewal was asked to make the new building harmonious with its context. That meant blending with the strong imperial representation and with a sacrosanct environment that is symbolic of the highest political ideals of today's Indian state. At the same time, his design was to represent a free, independent, and modern country.   >>>






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