Break in India: Destroying a Priceless Part of Delhi's Urban Heritage

A look at why the Hall of Nations and Nehru Pavilion in Pragati Maidan are historically and architecturally important.

Note: This article was first published on March 1, 2017 and is being republished with updates in light of the demolitions.

On March 24, 2017, the Hall of Nations and Hall of Industries in Pragati Maidan were pulled down. The government had first announced its plans to redo the entire Pragati Maidan complex in November 2015, to replace is with a “state-of-the-art” exhibition ground. The first step of this process was the demolition of all non air-conditioned buildings.

The Hall of Nations and Hall of Industries were designed by architect Raj Rewal and engineer Mahendra Raj in 1972. Ever since the was plan was made public, architectural associations and museums from across the world, including the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, have written to the government and Union commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman asking that the buildings be preserved because of their architectural importance. INTACH included these buildings in their list of ‘modern heritage’ sites that should be conserved, but the government’s Heritage Committee ruled in February this year that modern heritage sites must be at least 60 years old (whereas these building were built in 1972 – falling 15 years short).

Rewal, along with others, filed a petition in the Delhi high court asking that a stay be put on the demolitions. Although the stay order was in place while the Heritage Committee deliberated, it was lifted once the committee submitted its definition of ‘modern heritage’. Just last week, on April 20, the court dismissed Rewal’s plea against the demolition.

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