Named after the nation’s first Prime Minister, the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) stands as a beacon of academic excellence, renowned not only in India but across the globe. Established as a world-renowned center for teaching and research, JNU has consistently upheld its reputation, ranking number one in India by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) and receiving accolades such as the Best University Award from the President of India. The university's rich history and academic eminence have made it a symbol of intellectual prowess and progressive thinking with a long list of star-studded alumni that includes Nobel Laureates, talented academicians and famous government officials. However, today we are going to explore a different aspect of JNU — not its academic accomplishments but its marvelous architecture.
The foundation of JNU's architecture rests on the visionary work of the late C.P. Kukreja, a legendary architect whose contributions have left an indelible mark on the landscape of modern India. His design of the monumental JNU campus during the 1970s, his first large-scale commission, stands as a testament to his innovative approach and enduring legacy. The CP Kukreja Foundation for Design Excellence, named after the renowned architect, continues to carry forward his vision; nurturing and promoting design education, research, and innovation in India.
In a celebration of this rich legacy, the CP Kukreja Foundation for Design Excellence in collaboration with artist Vishal Dar has curated an India Art Fair exhibition titled 'The Masterplan,' commemorating fifty years of the JNU campus and C.P. Kukreja’s architectural design. The exhibition serves as a captivating narrative that delves into the intersections between architecture, citizenship, and nation-building. Through the language of architects — drawings and models — the exhibition aims to engage viewers; sharing the journey of the craft and contributing to the architectural pedagogy and the history of Modern India.
The collaborative nature of the exhibition creates a synergy of art, architecture, and design. It offers a unique opportunity to explore the emergence of the first South-Asian attempt to create a vast university model of JNU, where an institution is imagined as a micro-city within the southern ridge of the Aravalli hills of New Delhi. (With a size of 1019.38 acres, it is indeed a micro-city. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I have gotten lost inside the campus.) The design of the exhibition itself is envisioned as a studio inside a pavilion, providing an immersive and educational experience that engages with the geology, architecture, ecology, and climate of the sanctuary that is JNU.
Through four captivating chapters, the exhibition invites visitors to witness the profound impact of architecture on the shaping of India and its people. It serves as a time capsule; documenting the history and evolution of JNU, while also reflecting on the broader narrative of India's journey in the post-independent era. The exhibition's ambition is to serve as a platform for dialogue, reflection, and learning about the field of architecture and how it contributes to the idea of national identity.
The India Art Fair 2024 will run from the 1st to the 4th of February.