If you live in Delhi, and you’re into theatre or Indian sweets-I’m sure you know Mandi House well. I’ve been there before, but not with my architectural lens or on such a beautiful Spring day.
As I climbed up the stairs to exit the Mandi House metro station, I could see the sun sparkling on stainless steel railings, and a diffused light from the translucent fibreglass panels bathing me yellow. (As if in the spirit of Holi) It’s March- lukewarm, windy, with flowers such as the beautiful red Tesu (Butea Monosperma) in full bloom, with the ice cream thelas and bunta wallas coming back into sight.
Just on your right the first building you see is the Himachal Bhawan-an interesting composition of angled masses and textures of the Delhi quartzite, cement jalis and red sandstone. (Look out for the sculpture by Sanat Kumar Chatterjee at the corner, up amidst the tree foliage!) From this chowk, you can see the FICCI Auditorium(Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) and the striking Doordarshan office in the distance. This was initially the house of Raja of Mandi (hence Mandi House) which in the 1970’s got demolished to make way for the Doordarshan Office by Delhi’s architect Raj Rewal. (It has his signature use of sandstone and massing in response to our harsh Indian summers) Walking further along the Safdar Hashmi Marg reveals the monumental exposed concrete structure of the Sri Ram Centre -a cuboidal parasol resting on a cylinder. A sculptural delight. (Designed by Shiv Nath Prasad–Architect and Town Planner for the first Master Plan of Delhi-1962). It reminded me of the Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier, but ‘Indianised’ by the use of deep recesses. This was confirmed when I read Rahul Khanna and Manav Parhawk mention in their book ‘The Modern Architecture of New Delhi’:
Sri Ram Centre is an example of both smart space and fantastic building techniques. But more importantly, it is symbolic of a local architect who was willing to be original and yet able to pay tribute to Le Corbusier’s architectural paradigm.
This road continues further to Lady Irwin College but also quietly turns left onto Todar Mal road. (notice the lettered ceramic tiles embedded in the boundary wall!) Rustling leaves beneath my feet, birds chirping and greenery abound, I saw creepers embrace the humble entries of old houses and trees lining roads speckled with sunshine. The end of this street meets with the Tansen Marg (named so maybe because it houses institutes such as Triveni Kala Sangam) which leads to the famous Bengali Market (That has nothing to do with Bengal but much to do with Lala Bengali Mal Lohia who bought the land and set up the market in 1934) It is a bustling, pedestrian-friendly market, and at the time I visited-full of Holi paraphernalia, fresh flowers and Nathus and Bengali Sweet House with their mithai and chaat on full display. It made me think that our mushrooming malls will never be able to replace the charm of such marketplaces. Come to think about it, malls have a shelf life but the oldest markets in Delhi-from Chandni Chowk to Bengali market, they’ve been alive for decades.
More buildings to see in this area: Rabindra Bhawan by Habib Rahman, Triveni Kala Sangam by Joseph Allen Stein and Modern School Barakhamba by Walter Sykes George. It’s amazing weather in Delhi right now, get up, grab the Metro and explore the city on foot. 🙂
Check out my Behance post for more photographs from in and around Mandi House!
The Modern Architecture of New Delhi by Rahul Khanna and Manav Parhawk (2008)
The Information Board at Mandi House Metro Station by Indian Council of Historical Research and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. (2014)
All photographs have been clicked by Kanchan Joneja.
The illustrations are my early attempts at using the Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch tablet (CTH-680)