I’ve only been blown away by the built environment twice in my life.
The first time was when I visited the Taj Mahal in 2014 and the second was when I spent an entire day at the Barbican Estate in 2018. The latter is an apartment complex and a performing arts centre, part of what I can best explain as a daunting dystopian maze nestled within central London. Although their museum and theatre are beyond excellent, the real reason I visited this complex was to immerse myself in its stunning Brutalist architecture. I had been quite fascinated by the Brutalist buildings I had seen all over the Internet but standing between the three imposing concrete towers of the Barbican truly stopped time for me entirely. What had initially seemed like the ugliest excuse for a building I had ever seen had now launched me into a full-blown infatuation with Brutalism.
I continued to search for hints of Brutalist inspiration in the corners and seams of every city and building I visited since then. It wasn’t until I discovered the brilliant and massively popular works of Le Corbusier that I realised I had been living in a country that not only housed some of the movement’s most important projects, but also embodied in its history the spirit of Brutalism. As I began to identify the distinctly Brutalist buildings in Delhi, I began a relentless effort to understand my own city’s built heritage and post-colonial development - and days into my research for a simple historical narrative I had initially planned, I came to the shocking discovery that the government was developing an increasingly dismissive attitude towards the presence of Brutalism in Delhi’s horizon. The breathtaking concrete behemoths that had appeared all over the city in the decades following India’s independence were now at immediate risk of demolition. Soon, I became familiar with the pertinent cause of modernist preservation for which many Indian architects have campaigned in recent years. I don’t have the credentials or the technical knowledge to match up to the people trying to preserve or demolish these buildings but this project is my attempt to put forward a compelling argument in favour of re-considering our perception of Brutalism and why I believe its preservation is truly essential in maintaining our city’s architectural heritage.
We’ve let our modern history be defined by war, oppression and monarchies at the cost of sidelining our fascinating post-colonial reconstruction. The technological and artistic innovation of this period were in many ways unprecedented in Indian history and their physical erasure under the guise of “development” would be a grave mistake for our generation.
This website was originally designed solely as a collection of my own photography, but many of the buildings I wanted to include had entry restrictions or prohibited photography from within their premises. Moreover, many of their facades are now partially or entirely obscured by plant growth. However, thanks to the lovely folks at the MIT Dome Library, I was able to obtain a number of brilliant shots taken by the late photographer and architect Peter Serenyi in the 1980s. These photographs (taken from the Aga Khan Visual Archive) showcase the featured buildings in their full, unobscured glory merely years after they were originally built.