The Hall of Nations in Delhi’s Pragati Maidan, a truncated pyramid structure that the world associated with India’s engineering prowess, has been demolished. The structure was razed four days after the Delhi High Court dismissed a writ petition filed by architect Raj Rewal to preserve the building.
“For the past seven to eight days, we have been clearing the internal wiring and cables within the Hall of Nations. By Sunday, it was demolished,” said L C Goyal, chairman-managing director, India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), which owns the building.
On Monday morning, the Hall of Nations (No. 6), and the Hall of Industries (No. 2,3,4, 5), stood mangled, its reinforced concrete cement (RCC) innards exposing the once-strong nodes that made the building stand tall. Now, all that is left is crushed glass shards and pink concrete rubble.
A joint press note by architect Raj Rewal, structural engineer Mahendra Raj, former convenor of INTACH, Delhi Chapter, AGK Menon and president, Indian Institute of Architects, Divya Kush said: “We consider the demolition of the Hall of Nations at Pragati Maidan an act of outrage. The case was being considered in the Delhi High Court and the hearings were scheduled on April 26, 2017, and May 1, 2017. An independent body of the Indian Institute of Architects and different Associations’ of Engineers had requested the authorities to preserve these buildings for posterity for their unique achievements. In fact, as an answer to our letter to the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Commerce indicated to us to find an amicable resolution with the Trade Fair Authority. But, obviously, somebody in the ITPO had other motives.”
Goyal said, “The layout plan of the Integrated Exhibition Convention Centre, which involves the inevitable demolition of these structures, has been approved by statutory bodies such as the Heritage Conservation Committee, the Delhi Urban Arts Commission, South Delhi Municipal Corporation and National Monuments Authority.”
The Hall of Nations lay on the path that connects the yet-to-be-built underground tunnel that will bring Ring Road and Mathura Road closer.
“It is part of the larger plan under the 130-acre Pragati Maidan redevelopment project. In fact, it goes beyond Pragati Maidan itself. Everything has been done in a fair and transparent manner — not just to decongest traffic but to also bring India in sync with global standards. We changed the land use to also include hotels, which will come up in 3.7 acres of the complex,” he added.
Though discussions and plans on the redevelopment project began in 2007, it gathered steam in the last eight months when INTACH filed a plea in the High Court seeking protection for 62 buildings — including Hall of Nations and Nehru Pavilion in Pragati Maidan, identifying them as modern heritage.
“It was an important iconic historic building. The public doesn’t know of our modern architecture… The current trend to rewrite history is worrying. The idea that we have to wipe out the past, so that we can built the new can be seen in other areas too,” Menon said.
“Engineer Mahendra Raj worked very hard to find ways to construct the Hall of Nations with our labourers. They produced a fantastic structure which not only received international acclaim but also laid the foundation for RCC construction in India. It was indigenous yet global in its appeal,” Ahmedabad-based architect Rabindra Vasavada, said.
As a salute to India’s 25 years of Independence, the Hall of Nations opened its doors in November 1972 to 47 countries and 55 domestic exhibitors.
Today, the 108-foot high structure has been wiped out, only to be remembered in architectural textbooks.