Making of Indian Modern - A tribute to Mahendra Raj
Manoj Parmar | Director | KRVIA 2022
First published in
The name Mahendra Raj echoes the era of praxis that largely resonated the imminence of architectural engineering which dominated the era of post-independence construction of modern India. His work comes along as a didactic innovation in the field of civil engineering and architecture, which responded to the paradigm shift in architectural production as well as adopted the industrial culture of technology. The doctrine of utilitarian construction coupled with the compositional qualities of structure exhibits history embedded in his academic as well as professional experience from his formative years of working with the masters.
He was largely known as an engineer-architect, educated and exposed to modern means of conceptualizing architecture, primarily due to modern thought of experimentation and innovation. Indian architecture has an unparalleled epochal process of architectural engineering practices that enabled several and diverse architectural imaginations. His practice was shaped by two large concerns, firstly the emerging trend of a civil engineering practice as a reaction to altered imagination of what could be modern India, thus the edifice of modern representation was largely relegated to the emerging structural engineering practices (especially as engineers were the seen as an agent of change with respect to technology) and secondly, with his experience as an individual predilection with respect to brutalist tendencies that allowed his practice to orient an engineering response to the architectural imaginations or enabling architecture to liberate from the cartesian system of production. His work showed the way to the intrinsic relationship between the rules of space and engineering possibilities. The brutalist structural forms not only determine the spatial quality but also the nature of enclosure systems through newer means of structural elements.
Historically, there have been times where the structural engineering thought has dominated the architectural discourses by a cult of individual practices, namely Jean Durand, Pier Luigi Nervi, Buckminster Fuller, Felix Candela, Fazlur Rahman Khan, Jacob Zunz and in contemporary times, by Santiago Calatrava. It would not be any exaggeration to add Mahendra Raj to the list along with a structural practice that has profoundly influenced architectural practices that emerged in modern India. He created the loftiness of structural engineering practice that resonated a culture of structural experiments along with social and scientific utility.
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