Hay Festival: Architecture Through The Asian Lens


SEGOVIA—IE University’s very own Dean of Architecture, Martha Thorne, kindly allows an audience of 300 people to eavesdrop on a conversation between two very esteemed figures in the world of architecture. 


The very moment Raj Rewal appeared before the audience, it was apparent that he carried a lifetime of transformative projects under his belt. 


Accompanied by Llàtzer Moix, editor-in-chief of La Vanguardia and author of various influential books on architecture, the combination of the two allowed us to take an insightful dive into the innately spiritual world of architecture. 


One of Rewal’s most recognised projects, the Hall of Nations, located in New Delhi, is the largest space frame structure in India, and was designed with sustainability in mind. The venue was created to celebrate Indian Independence and is listed on the World Monuments Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites. Unfortunately, it was demolished in 2017.


The vast majority of Rewal’s projects are heritage based and located in New Delhi, meaning that they are extremely vulnerable to neglect, vandalism, natural disasters and climate change. 


Science and Spirituality 

With this liability in mind, Rewal designed the National Institute of Immunology which was built in what he describes as, “A marriage between an Ashram and a Monastery.” Due to the unforgiving North Indian climate, the building was created to diffuse UV rays from the sun and ensure that air can be successfully circulated around the institution. 


This sustainably spiritual creation is quite fitting for an institute where cutting edge research in modern biology is carried out, giving insight into Rewal’s purpose for the two seemingly incompatible concepts of science and spirituality to be combined for the greater good.


Hunger Games?

Another testament to Indian culture is the Asian Games Village. Not entirely unlike the Hunger Games districts, this athlete’s village was built upon the remains of the Khaliji Dynasty and is right next to the area in which the 2010 Commonwealth Games occurred. 


As an ode to India’s reverence towards athletes, the colony contains blocks and lanes named after prominent Indian sporting figures, eerily similar to that of the Victor’s Village in the Hunger Games. Nevertheless, the project was developed in 1982, so technically, it was here first.


The North Remembers

The Jang-e-Azadi Memorial carries the most physical symbolism out of all of Rewal’s projects as it was built to display the history of colonialism and its impact on the Punjabi community during the Indian Independence Movement. The struggle for freedom is represented by the petal shaped structures as a homage to people who sacrificed their lives during this period.


In response to Llàtzer Moix’s curiosity on Rewal’s extensive use of minarets in his work, he jokingly responded, “Western architecture views the minaret as phallic in nature, whereas Indians use it as a symbol of victory”. Very fitting for a conversation on colonialism and ignorance.


Rewal believes the purpose of architecture is to strive beyond providing joy to those who experience it. He emphasises its role in creating an essence and flavour, using the ancient Sanskrit word “rasa” to embody his personal brand of architecture.

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