DELHI: Raj Rewal, one of India's leading architects whose urban design narratives has set precedents globally, says the country's building design is in dire need of a paradigm shift to meet the rising standards of living.
"In order to meet rising standards of living and building requirements, we have to innovate and think in new directions. The paradigms of building design have to shift," Rewal said at the launch of a major exhibition showcasing his work.
The show "Raj Rewal: Memory, Metaphor and Meaning in his Constructed Landscape," curated by A G Krisha Menon and Rahoul B Singh, showcases 50 years of the legendary architect's work at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA).
This is the first time the Gallery is exhibiting works of modern architecture and the show comprising sketches, films, drawings and models is set to continue till June 15.
The architect, who is known to promote both craftsmanship and new technologies stresses the need for a well structured shelter for urban people in India.
"Many political parties have in their election manifestos talked about creating smart cities. In this exhibition on show are my attempts at low cost social housing, which can be attempted on a large scale," Rewal said.
Hailing from Hoshiarpur in Punjab, Rewal has completed five decades in the field of architecture. Some of his works include the Indian embassy in Beijing which is powered with solar energy and the recent projects for Coal IndiaBSE 0.41 % Limited.
The permanent exhibition pavilions at Pragati Maidan, the Asian Games Village, the Central Institute of Educational Technology, the Jawahar Vyapar Bhawan at Janpath, the SCOPE office complex, the National Institute of Immunology, CIDCO Low-Cost Housing, the World Bank Regional Mission in Lisbon, the Library at the Parliament House and the Visual Arts Institutional Campus in Rohtak are buildings he has designed.
Exposure to foreign countries and to country's villages has influenced his works, the architect said.
"How to counter the scorching hot rays of the sun has been the basis of traditional architecture and urban design in warm climate. The typology of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan and Venice exhibit similar characteristics," Rewal said.
"Having studied and worked abroad, it took me sometime to imbibe these values. The narrow winding streets, cool and shady courtyards which diffuse light, influenced my design for Asian Games Village in Delhi. National Institute of Immunology takes these values further and in this campus architecture, urbanism and landscape are fused together to create holistic architecture," he said.
As an architect, Rewal said he insists on certain values to be followed while constructing a building and cites the Parliament Library as a case in point.
"You have to reflect a bit more on the functional aspect as these are the kinds of buildings where you have to get on with values that are symbolic and harmony. The library uses the same material used for the Parliament and the design is quiet and inward-looking. It is based on the buildings similar to that of South Asian Buddhist countries where the inner spaces are far more reflected and important," Rewal said.
The architect is unhappy with the rise of buildings in the country, which he terms as copy cat of the structures in western countries.
"It is more worse in India compared to other countries when buildings are build in large scale. A building should be worked out on certain values and ideas. ... It will make the life far more interesting and lively even to the lowest level of people," Rewal said.
He gives example of low cost prototype buildings for Navi Mumbai that he had built. "One room apartments and two room apartments which were built in Navi Mumbai for Rs 1 to 2 lakhs."
The 80-year-old architect considers architecture as both pragmatic and poetic, one which can serve as a basis of "solving our problems and raising certain issues related to urbanism."
"For me the space, light and structure in a well-crafted building is the core value of architecture. The difference between an artist and architect is that while an artist exhibits his personal values while an architect on the other side exhibits not only his personal aspirations, but also the collective value of the society," he said.