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Mr. Raj Rewal 

by Yuriko Lochan

"The architecture of a particular region is determined by its climate and geographical location."
For example, in Delhi, the temperature during summer reaches as high as 46 degrees Celsius, and falls to 4 degrees Celsius during the peak winter. Great variation in humidity can be observed between the monsoons, the dry summers, and winters where one could rarely expect rain. One example of traditional structure that enables you to encounter the severe heat in India, is the ‘courtyard’. The courtyards provide space for passage of air, and become a center for communication, the space where you feel relaxed and being re-united with nature.

One could see similar examples in Machiya in Kyoto, Japan. A small garden with moist green plants and with a small stone water bowl located in the middle of the house provides a space to feel the air, relax and functions as an air passage. As a result, the temperature of the whole area drops formidably during summers. Mr. Rewal has executed several projects that have been influenced by traditional architecture that has deep affinity to the architecture and patterns of living of a region. 

The inspiration from the past is reinterpreted in terms of rational structures, modern techniques, and new building materials, to meet practical realities of urban, contemporary needs. He carefully studied the life of slum dwellers in the slum clusters in the suburbs of Mumbai, where he took up the project to provide a residential complex for the slum dwellers for CIDCO (1995). It was a kind of a challenge, since not many architects were willing to see the buildings designed by them being kept shabbily and one could also easily imagine that there would be almost no chance to maintain these buildings in the later years. He had also taken into account the social nature of the people in the slums, where they always face each other conversation takes place regularly amongst them. It is a kind of community living, unlike the apartment complex in the other parts of the world, where privacy is the first priority. 

He has focused on structures of Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, which is attuned to the climatic conditions and fulfills the city 's social requirements. Sequence of narrow streets leads to a small square, from where several staircases connects several 2 to 3 storied houses where windows open towards the inner courtyard as well as in the outer square forming a huge organic structure as a whole. Mr. Rewal’s concern towards understanding traditional design qualities and knowledge and carefully re-adopting them to contemporary requirements is amply visible in his designs.

He says, “The second point which I want to make, is Symbolism.”
The Parliament Library (2002), functionally a house of knowledge, is symbolically a place of ‘enlightenment’. He has complimented the existing Parliament House which creates the echoes of ‘Mandala’ with square-symmetrical Yantra diagrams in a triangular plot located adjacent to the Parliament. He visualized that one would feel relieved from the stresses of the everyday life. The Parliament House which denotes democracy is linked to the central hall of the library complex, ‘The Focal Centre’, where a huge column of light a Yantra diagram and the Ashoka Chakra symbolizes the vast knowledge of our ancient times. Here you can see his deep concern to adopt the knowledge of our masters and spiritual gurus of our traditional past whose deep insight towards life has been visualized pictorially in the past as symbols and passed on to our present time. It is indeed a fact that the symbols compliment the background of the moral values of the people of the region.

“ Ismaili Centre ” in Lisbon, Portugal, the structural element and the design of enclosing walls has been drawn from Islamic geometrical design as well as the architectural traditions in the region. The doctrine of cosmic unity is central to Islamic philosophy and spiritual concerns. Islamic art is essentially a way of depicting and discovering this unity through geometrical patterns. He has been taking into account these traditional values, yet with the rational interpretation of the traditional elements utilizing modern technology and materials for catering to urban contemporary requirements.

“What do you consider as something new?” Mr. Rewal answered, “ I would like to call it as poetic humanism. World is now going through an interesting phase. The latest technology becomes obsolete in a couple of years.

Facing superficial and rapidly changing trends, people are looking for something that is meaningful lying deep under our consciousness. India has been considered as a land of vast knowledge from ancient times where people came travelling on foot from every corners of the world just to seek knowledge. The important task is to relate this traditional knowledge to harmonize human-being and nature, by providing a sensible and balanced physical structure and environment based on contemporary technology.”

Reference from; ‘Architectural Heritage and its reinterpretation’, Raj Rewal 2002

Copyright © 2007
Copyright © 2007, Yuriko Lochan    |    Site by: Cross Section