The List

The List

This is a collection of Brutalist buildings in Delhi that I personally find fascinating. Their visual energy still dominates the city’s modern architectural identity today. I have included archival pictures of each building captured in the 1970s and 1980s, and my own photographs as a gallery below each one, to emphasise the beautiful ageing process of concrete in each case.


National Dairy Development Board Office Building

(1979, Achyut Kavinde)

© MIT, photograph by Peter Serenyi

Trying to analyse this building as a work of art or anything notable at all was initially a strange process to me. I used to see it every single day on my way to school and I never stopped to think twice about it, even after becoming a self-proclaimed Brutalism enthusiast. Only after seeing a 35mm photograph of this building from decades ago - without the dozens of trees and creepers that now stand in the way of its proper admiration - did I begin to gauge its breathtaking form. It's hard to imagine anyone having conversations about - err - milk in what looks like an amorphous extraterrestrial fortress. There's an enthralling randomness to the shape of this office building, one that makes it one of the most underrated works of Architecture in the Delhi skyline.

The NDDB is a monument to architect Achyut Kanvinde’s vision of a carefully constructed India that combines historical aesthetics with the needs of a rapidly industrialising society: a veritable temple to the sacred cow to which it is devoted.
— Vice


National Co-operative Development Corporation

(1980, Kuldip Singh)

© MIT, photograph by Peter Serenyi

A personal favourite of mine, Kuldip Singh's “Pyjama Building" manages to mould reinforced concrete into one of its most exciting structures as far as Brutalist works of this period go. When viewed from the front, the facade of this building is deceptively simple - possibly even dull - but as you walk around this brilliantly symmetrical project, it starts to look like something out of Blade Runner with its swirling central column and angular inner-facade. The NCDC Building is a perfect example of functional Brutalism - although the style is now primarily an aesthetic choice in most projects, its fascinating geometrical features and unforgiving concrete textures were results of very real urban development requirements. There's a functional attention-to-detail that probably arises from the contribution of structural engineer Mahendra Raj to this particular project. The staggered symmetrical shape again tackles the brutal Delhi sun while facilitating a high level of interconnectivity between different sections of the building.


Akbar Hotel

(1969, Shiv Nath Prasad)

© MIT, photograph by Peter Serenyi.

Architect Shiv Nath Prasad has sometimes been reduced to the status of an imitator of the works of Le Corbusier, but despite the clear Corbusian influence in Prasad's projects, the label is undoubtedly a disservice to Prasad's distinctive contribution to Delhi's architectural vocabulary in the late 20th-century. The boxed form of the Akbar hotel certainly resembles Unite D'Habitation, but Prasad's building elevates the dizzying simplicity of the Corbusier project to an almost regal elegance. It doesn't scream luxury in today's terms, and perhaps it's the overwhelming nostalgia that this building's quintessential 1960s aesthetic seems to evoke, but there's something strangely comforting about the harsh facade of the building when contrasted with the undoubtedly extravagant interiors that once resided within it - when it was still a 5-Star hotel.


Shri Ram Centre for Performing Arts

(1972, Shiv Nath Prasad)

© MIT, photograph by Peter Serenyi.

The projecting rectangular shape of this building is an excellent example of form representing purpose in a building - it feels contained yet theatrical. In terms of its style, it sits somewhere in between a luxurious Bauhaus residence and a watchtower of some sort, but its bold geometric nature looks incredible from every angle. The Shri Ram Centre is Brutalism stripped down to its very essentials - an extremely functional statement piece that puts the beauty of reinforced concrete at its forefront.


NDMC Building (Palika Kendra)

(1983, Kuldip Singh)

© MIT, photograph by Peter Serenyi.

This is the building that I have immediately associated with the Architecture of Delhi throughout my life. It is a truly unapologetic attempt at perfectly geometrical Brutalism, and it takes my breath away every single time I look up at its daunting slopes or even pass it from a distance. It is equal parts super-villain lair and dystopian fortress - almost an architectural embodiment of the bureaucratic system itself. Whether or not its strangely threatening nature was intentional remains up for debate, but it's one of Delhi's finest modernist projects and a fascinating interpretation of Brutalism. Its structural reminiscence can also be seen in Kuldip Singh’s other major project, the NCDC building, included earlier on this page.

When I visited the building for this project in 2019, I was shocked to learn that its upper-half is now covered with a hideous LED billboard. I guess it’s not as bad as the building being torn down but it definitely isn’t a pretty sight. Regardless, the building maintains its glorious elevation and shape, and the smaller sister-structures next to it remain untouched.


State Trading Corporation

(1989, Raj Rewal)

This is a picture I took of the STC building in 2019. Images of this structure were not available in any of the archives I had access to.

Raj Rewal's design for the STC building is perhaps one of the most strangely mesmerising buildings I've ever seen, even though the dull ‘80s colour palette of this project has not aged well. Retro-futuristic in its aesthetic and filled with this sense of imposing grandeur, it's not hard to see why anyone would consider this building out-of-place or even perhaps ugly in the context of its surroundings, but its adventurous stylistic choices and vertical scale symbolise a period of Indian design that was bold, experimental and yet extremely functional.


Tibet House

(1974, Shiv Nath Prasad)

© MIT, photograph by Peter Serenyi.

Structurally reminiscent of the Shri Ram Centre, Shiv Nath Prasad’s Tibet House building seems almost aggressively proud of its cubical shape. Another example of barebones Brutalism, the simple gridded facade and projecting cubical mass lend the building an unmistakably modern voice that stands in stark contrast with the deep ethnic immersion of its interior. The red paint that now covers this building was a controversial move but I can see why it was a necessary one. For a place that's supposed to embody the culture of Tibet, it certainly is strikingly European on the outside. Still, it benefits from the functionality of its Brutalist intention, even if its inhabitants are desperately trying to remodel its stylistic attributes.


Pragati Maidan Hall of Nations

(1972, Raj Rewal)

© MIT, photograph by Peter Serenyi.

A modern interpretation of a traditional "jali”, the design of this exhibition hall was meant to reflect the technological advancements of India on the 25th anniversary of its independence. As the first space-frame built from reinforced concrete, the Hall of Nations was quite literally a landmark in structural engineering. It was destroyed amidst a political struggle over defining the architectural heritage of the city, as many conservatives see it as a representation of the welfare state of 1970s India. And perhaps it does represent the idea of a welfare state - after all, the popularity of Brutalism can in-part be attributed to the rapid spread of welfare housing in Britain in the 1960s - but it was also symbolic of India's engineering prowess and distinct contribution to modern design.