Observing that several buildings in the Central Vista, which is set for revamp, reflect the “colonial ethos that the country was subjected to” and the technology and understanding of that period, Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri Wednesday said many structures built in the 1960s and 70s “should have been torn down many years earlier”.
Speaking at a Central Public Works Department seminar on Emerging Trends in Public Architecture, Puri said, “Something went wrong there. Either we lowered our standards or we took our eye off the ball. The point is that 70 per cent of India of 2030 has to be rebuilt.”
The Central Vista, along which lie the Parliament House and Central government offices, including the North and South Blocks, Shastri Bhavan, Nirman Bhavan and Udyog Bhavan, will be revamped. A final decision on what will be torn down and what will be renovated has not been taken yet. The CPWD has invited national and international firms to pitch their design ideas for the massive project.
“The buildings constructed in that period reflect the colonial ethos that the country was subjected to. But, again, I am not going to say anything good or bad. I’m saying that colonial ethos in terms of its architecture was a very positive reflection in many ways, but it reflected the technology and the understanding of what the environment was in that period… if you go to Pretoria (South Africa), they have buildings that are almost identical to North and South block. It’s the prevailing ethos,” Puri said.
The proposal has seen criticism from some quarters, with architects expressing apprehensions that the historical nature of the area could be compromised.
Addressing concerns regarding whether the Parliament House — designed by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker between 1911 and 1930 — will be brought down and rebuilt, Puri said: “Who said that we are going to destroy the Parliament? All that we have done so far is to invite ideas. If by coming of an idea a building collapses, then that is not an idea, it is something else.”
He reiterated it has been the Prime Minister’s dream for years to redesign the Central district of the Capital. “Our government district should be second to none. It should stand out. People should come there. And all we are doing at this stage is to invite ideas. Some architects still want to criticise us, I tell them, be my guest,” he said.
The minister also said that the current office space was inefficient.
“When I joined the government, I got a small room on the second floor — these are not efficient offices, both in terms of utilisation of space, or what modern offices and buildings should be. So we want to rebuild,” he said.
The minister added that they were open to ideas for the Parliament as well. “For the Parliament, we can go underground or make another building near it. If the design is good, then to its west we can build another block. We are just at the stage of design. India is the largest democracy and we are open to ideas,” said the minister.
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