The collaborative alliance between the architect and the structural engineer (and teams) often remains understated. The productive process and nature of working together may enter explorations of new construction materials, arriving at exciting patterns and textures, sourcing low cost materials and articulating in-built forms, the dramatic play between space and scale.
Projects like the Hall of Nation in New Delhi, the Akbar Hotel and NCDC Office building in the capital, the Hindon River Mills in Ghaziabad, the Municipal Stadium and Tagore Memorial Theatre in Ahmedabad and the Indoor Sports Stadium in Srinagar find special place in this exhibition, alongside chronicling the career of this engineering innovator.
Architects like Charles Correa (Municipal Stadium, Ahmedabad), Raj Rewal (Hall of Nation), B.V. Doshi (Tagore Memorial Hall) and Kuldeep Singh (NCDC Building) are considered hallmarks of modern India architecture.
It was arguably their partnership with a structural engineer like Mahendra Raj that phenomenal modernist architecture found space on the developing Indian terrain.
Mahendra Raj's career can be mapped altogether with the period of India's post-Independence modernisation, a period marked by massive constructions flourishing across the country, which eventually changed its urban landscape.
Concrete as building material was popular across the world when Mahendra Raj executed these structures. However, the material had its own limitations. In the 1960s, India was far from intense mechanisation unlike the western countries, but Raj used this shortcoming to his advantage and experimented with structures with the availability of affordable material and labour.
"Mahendra Raj has carried the whole modern Indian architecture on his shoulders. My interaction with him was like a jugalbandi that has helped enhance and execute my visions," said Raj Rewal, describing the immense skill and tenacity with which Mahendra Raj executed these structures.
Mahendra Raj's ingenuity lay in the fact that he deployed easily available manual labour as well as construction material to craft his structures almost like artefacts, so unique that they went on to become his signature aesthetics.
The exhibition is on till December 26.
( With inputs from IANS )