[A] number of individuals and institutions, including the Indian Institute of Architects and an online petition on Change.org to Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been started to save the buildings.
The petitioners have also gained international support, with officials from the Centre national d’art et de culture Georges Pompidou in Paris and New York’s Museum of Modern Art writing to the Minister of State for Commerce and Industry to conserve the structures. However, these calls seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
The Change.org petition says the spatial organisation of these buildings, designed by architect Raj Rewal and celebrated engineer Mahendra Raj, provides opportunities to extend our cultural legacy within the city without destroying them, as there is sufficient space within and around these buildings to accommodate new programmes and adaptive reuses.
Calling it a symbol of modernity, the petition says the buildings have been acknowledged all around the world as icons of modernity and even found a place in the annals of architecture and Indian cultural history. It says the integration of these historic structures is key to any smart development as the structures occupy less than two per cent of Pragati Maidan, and can easily be refurbished and provided with modern services like air-conditioning at economical costs to accommodate new functions.
Commenting on the plan, Ranjit Hoskote, the co-curator of the recently-concluded exhibition “The State of Architecture: Practices and Processes” in India, said: “While the ill-considered redevelopment of Pragati Maidan has been announced in the name of progress, it appears to be informed by a deep contempt for postcolonial India’s achievements in architecture and engineering, for all that has truly been ‘made in India’.”
He added that to demolish these buildings is to wilfully enact a cultural amnesia.