The halls, regarded as "modern architecture marvels", were built at Pragati Maidan here to celebrate 25 years of the country's Independence.
The Hall of Nations and the Hall of Industries, two of the national capital’s iconic modern architectural landmarks, celebrated globally, are now history. According to the INTACH, which has been fighting a losing legal battle for preservation of the buildings, work to tear down the buildings began late last night and by morning, the halls were reduced to rubble.
The halls, regarded as “modern architecture marvels”, were built at Pragati Maidan in Delhi to celebrate 25 years of the country’s Independence. The Hall of Nations was inaugurated in 1972 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. “The Hall of Nations and the Hall of Industries have been demolished to make way for a state-of-the-art modern complex which would add immensely to the profile of the capital city.
“The buildings were not categorised as heritage by the Heritage Conservation of Committee (HCC) as those are only 45 -years-old. So, we have demolished those for the new project. Demolition of the Nehru Pavilion is still going on,” a senior ITPO official told PTI. The India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), headquartered at Pragati Maidan, is a nodal agency under the aegis of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry for promoting the country’s external trade and hosts the famous annual trade fair on its premises.
The ITPO made clear that setting up of an Integrated Exhibition-cum-Convention Centre (IECC) requires dismantling of Hall No. 1 to 6, 14 to 20, state pavilions and others, “including the Hall of Nations, the Nehru Pavilion and the Hall of Industry”.
“The layout plan of IECC, which inevitably involves demolition of these structures, has already been approved by statutory authorities concerned, like the Delhi Urban Arts Commission, the South Delhi Municipal Corporation and the National Monuments Authority,” the ITPO said.
“The layout plan is ready and it has been approved by the Competent Authority. We expect to finish it by mid-2019. A basement parking facility for 4,800 vehicles is also a part of the project,” the ITPO official said. “Red and white sandstones will be used in the construction in harmony with other buildings in the capital. It will add to the aesthetics of the city,” he said. Heritage lovers in the city, described the demolition as a “huge architectural loss”, saying, the structures should have been “preserved for posterity”.
The ITPO highlighted that work for redevelopment of Pragati Maidan is time-bound in nature and such a venue of international standards is in sync with India aspiring to be a global power. It said the RFP for IECC has been floated by the National Buildings Construction Corporation on March 23 with May 21 as the last date of submission of bids for selecting the vendor/contractor.
Meanwhile, as the Hall of Nations lies in ruins, its creator, architect Raj Rewal says the demolishment was “very unfair”, particularly with two hearings scheduled on April 27 and May 1 respectively. “When the court hearings were underway, one of them was supposed to happen on the 27th and the other on May 1. So, it is very unfair,” he told PTI.
Rewal and Menon along with structural engineer Mahendra Raj and Divya Kush, president of Indian Institute of Architects have released a press statement calling the demolition “an act of outrage”. “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 27th April 2017 and 1st May 2017.
“It may not be out of place to mention that the independent body of the Indian Institute of Architects and the different Associations’ of Engineers had requested the authorities to preserve these buildings for prosterity for their unique archievements. INTACH had pleaded in their court case to do the same,” the statement reads.