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Recognized and celebrated all over the world by museums, architects, artists and designers for its unique form and innovative structure, India’s iconic ‘Hall of Nations’, was built in 1972 to commemorate twenty five years of the country’s independence.

Designed by revered Indian architect Raj Rewal and structural engineer Mahendra Raj, it was the world’s first and largest-span space-frame structure built in reinforced concrete and holds special significance in India’s post-colonial history. It formed the center-piece of the Pragati Maidan (which literally translates to “progress grounds”), a venue for large exhibitions and conventions, and also the largest of its kind in New Delhi spanning across more than 625,000 sqm.

Aerial view of the exhibition hall complex with the larger Hall of Nations and four smaller Halls of Industries built for the 1972 International Trade Fair. (Photo: Copyright Mahendra Raj Archive via Architexturez.net)

Sadly, this past April, the India Trade Promotion Organization (ITPO) elected to demolish the ‘Hall of Nations’ and its neighboring ‘Hall of Industries’ as a part of a plan to redevelop Pragati Maidan complex, and make way for a “state-of-the-art” convention centre and exhibition centre (which you can view here.). The demolition was carried out despite numerous pleas from the local and international community, as well as a petition filed by Raj Rewal himself and Mahendra Raj (among others) requesting for a stay on the demolition. Unfortunately, the petition was dismissed and iconic building(s) torn down.

Ruins of Hall of Nations after its demolition. (Photo: Abhilash Mallick/The Quint)

Hours after his life’s most notable work was demolished, architect Raj Rewal remembered the Hall of Nations in Pragati Maidan fondly, saying,

In 1972, the Hall of Nations and Industries was symbolic of an achievement by young architects in a newly-independent India, creating a style which could be constructed with limited means, yet be uniquely Indian.

The video above celebrates the significance of the Hall of Nations, and is part of feature length film titled “Indian Modernity” by Manu Rewal. The images below chronicle it’s design, construction and completion as what remains as one of India’s most symbolic architectural achievements.

If you’d like to learn more about the building and its heritage, we’d recommend the following links,

Here’s a short description of the building from the Raj Rewal Associates website,

The design was evolved to meet the constraints of time, availability of materials and labour, but above all, to reflect symbolically and technologically, India’s intermediate technology in the 25th year of its independence. The depth of the structural system was utilized as a Sun breaker and conceived of in terms of the traditional ‘jali’, a geometrical pattern of perforation that serves to obstruct directs rays of the harsh Sun while permitting air circulation.The main pavilion of the Hall of Nations has a clear span of 78 metres and a height varying from three metres to 21 metres, thereby providing a vast capacity for items to be exhibited, from books to bulldozers.

 

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