National War Museum Competition
Delhi is a city that is steeped in history and any major building that is situated in an important location, such as Princes Park,must integrate with the place harmoniously. This does not mean that the building must fit in by simply following the language of its, undoubtedly majestic, neighbors. Instead, the building must continue the historical narrative and try to encapsulate the ethos of the place by seeking new ways to express it in its architecture. By virtue of being a public building it must also give something back to the people and provide for a new public space from where one can experience the city differently. The architectural expression must present a solution for the dichotomy of having a contemporary building in a historic setting.
With this in mind our proposal seeks to find answers to the following questions. What is the role of a museum in the city? What does it symbolize? How can historical context inform the architecture of the museum? How does the museum express its program?
Museum as a platform to experience the city
How can the building from within the plot boundary still relate to the larger scale?
British architect Edwin Lutyens planned this part of the city on the garden city principle. The C Hexagon is designed where India Gate and the chhatri is the focal point in the centre. All important buildings; such as Hyderabad House, Jaipur House, Bikaner House, Baroda House etc; feature a butterfly shaped plan to orient maximum number of rooms to the views. Unlike the local monuments around hexagon, our proposal reinterprets the butterfly plan with a corner entry by splaying the building not only in plan but also in section. This stretches the ground up onto the public roof of the building, an architectural transect of the garden city. The building’s orientation reinforces the focus back to the India gate which contains the immortal flame of the Amar Jawan Jyoti and offers fresh perspectives of the city. All views converge to the India gate and you cannot lose sight of it from anywhere on the roof.
Museum as a monument for the people
How can the building create a sense of belonging for to the people?
The buildings around the C-hexagon were homes for princes during the British era and a symbol of their power and status. Even today, sprawling lawns around important buildings in the Hexagon and in the Bungalow zone are usually accessible to the privileged few. The museum pays homage to importance of civil society and to the fact that military operates for every citizen in our democratic set up.Therefore, instead of placing a building within a ceremonial landscape that creates a foreground to reinforce its monumentality, the landscaped terraced building itself becomes the monument. This terraced roof is accessible to all and belongs to the general public.
The triangular forms resemble the Jantar Mantar, the steps of the sloping wing like roof echo the steps of Jama Masjid and the raised platform is reminiscient of Humayun’s tomb and Viceroy’s House on Raisina Hills all of which are located in the immediate vicinity of the site. The edifice is therefore a people’s monument and finds its own place in the grandeur of important buildings in the area.
Museum as symbol for the armed forces
In addition to displays and exhibits in the galleries, how does the museum express the military heritage, their values, challenges and sacrifices? How can the building itself become a source of inspiration to motivate the citizens?
The building finds an answer by adopting a series of varying gestures. The façade consists of a regimented organization of colonnaded verandahs and jaalis. These work well in Delhi’s climate as it keeps the harsh sun away from the inner rooms and were also borrowed by Lutyens in the design of his buildings in this area. The hierarchies of openings march around the building, like soldiers, evoking the order and discipline of the armed forces. Symbolically this arrangement lends support to the people’s platform, which is accentuated by a thick band at the top, also borrowed from Lutyen’s buildings. Like a sculpture, the building links the ground with the sky and symbolically hasthe geometry of a battle ship – thereby linking the various arms of the defense forces that operate on the land, water and air. The arduous climb over the roof will offer a unique human experience that evokes the emotions of struggle endured by our brave soldiers often in treacherous terrain. The deep voids cut within the building at odd angles around existing trees are likegashes or wounds andportray the terror of war.
Museum as a modern, sustainable museum
From inside this is a modern building with well-organized exhibition spaces. As the building rises up, in section, it creates a variety of spaces within. Some areas have soaring ceilings where as others have more intimate volume giving the curator freedom and flexibility to display large artifacts or small memorabilia.
The galleries cascade upwards and as you walk through, it offers glimpses of the exhibits at different levels. The nature of movement is such that it allows the viewer to form his or her own route of circulation.
To prevent against extreme Delhi heat, the building does not have too much of glass surface on the external skin. The stepped platform connects back to each level within offering means of speedy evacuation. Along with that the roof is also a huge collector of rainwater, lined with drain channels with a storage area below.
Local Rhubarb red and beige pink sandstone echoes the materiality of the city’s important buildings. The color and texture blends in to the city. The huge edifice strategically merges in the neighborhood and along with the major historical buildings around it shares the chance of becoming a local landmark.
The building will offer an unforgettable experience and becomes a meeting point for the city and a symbol that will grow to transcend time.