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New canvas

During the inaugural ceremony of the new wing of the National Gallery of Modern Art,Union Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni made a reference to the innumerable architectural drawings...

Written by Vandana Kalra |
February 4, 2009 2:59:16 am

With an exhibition,NGMA will share details of the construction of its three new blocks that took over 20 years to complete

During the inaugural ceremony of the new wing of the National Gallery of Modern Art,Union Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni made a reference to the innumerable architectural drawings prepared for the expansion project that was first passed in 1985.

In the audience,architects AR Ramanathan and Snehanshu Mukherjee were recollecting the same summer,when their firm TEAM was chosen to construct neighbouring buildings for the Charles Blomfield-designed Jaipur House through a national architectural competition. “It was a coveted project. We thought we won’t be able to take any other work while this was on,” recalls Ramanathan,a few days after two of the three new blocks opened to the public. Adding 24,700 sq meters to the existing space at NGMA,the new blocks comprise 12,000 sq meters of display area,a library,auditorium,preview theatre and 2,600 sq meter area for art storage. “The museum has become truly world class,” says Rajeev Lochan,who has been associated with the project since 2001,when he was appointed as the director of NGMA. “The expansion has been a priority,” he adds,as he readies to share details of the construction work in an exhibition that is scheduled for later this year.

Sifting through over a thousand architectural,structural and service drawings,Ramanathan is shortlisting a handful that will be on display. “The idea is to share the experience of the making of the new blocks,” he notes.

In the exhibition,adjacent to the sketches,might be penned anecdotes that give an insight into the project. This could include particulars of three detailed estimates that were prepared for approval by the architects and the proceedings that were undertaken to evict illegal occupants from hutments behind Jaipur House. Ramanathan might also recall the two foundation stone laying ceremonies for the new wing. “In 1997 Madhavrao Scindia first laid the foundation stone and in 2003 Jagmohan participated in a ‘groundbreaking’ ceremony,” recollects Ramanathan,who interacted with four NGMA directors during the long haul.

Irrespective of the procedural details and the estimate cost that elevated from an approximate Rs 13-14 crore in 1985 to Rs 70-72 crore,Ramanathan notes that the design has remained consistent with the original proposal that won his firm the competition. “The new extension is a contemporary public building which is in harmony with the Jaipur House,” states Ramanathan,pointing out that the height of the new blocks is kept lower than the old structure as a mark of respect. While stone-blasted polished granite and Italian blue pearl has been used amid others for the flooring,red sandstone and Dholpur adorn the exterior walls. The lights came from several suppliers,including Decon Lighting that has a showroom in Khan Market. “There was a lot of customisation. Artwork requires a particular kind of lighting and we had to make sure that there was a provision to display different mediums,” states Livinder Singh,managing director of Decon.

Even as workers give finishing touches to the third block,Ramanathan notes that the wait of more than 20 years was a result of several factors,ranging from protracted litigation to administrative delays.

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