Demolished Buildings: 15 Architectural Icons That Are Now Memory

Whether demolished buildings or not, architecture holds value at the time to serve its functional purpose. In addition, design, spaces, and materials that uplift its aesthetic values support the functions of the building. As we look at India, the trend of demolition has grown steadily through the years of modernization, which led to a greater number of demolished buildings. As a result of a growing population and the demand for urbanisation, new buildings are replacing the old heritage buildings over time. Moreover, looking at the current scenario in India, it is not just the development that is the factor in the demolishing of buildings. In addition to development schemes, climate change and natural calamities also play a vital role in a few demolitions.

As we see today in India, the need for developers to acquire huge amounts of land is increasing. As a result of globalisation running its course, Indian cities are facing immense changes in terms of land utilisation. Demolished buildings are making way for proposals for high-rise construction and complexes in places of cultural inheritance. Thus, to boost capitalism, the trend of demolition is increasing in various cities in the country. Cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and Patna are facing threats of the demolition of various iconic buildings within the city.

Scene of Destruction (Image Credits: The Quint)

As we mark, buildings built before these times, were architecturally sound. They had certainty in the language of their structures that depicted the era they were born into. In fact, the identity of most Indian cities lies in these buildings. Hence, there are a few iconic buildings in India, that should have never undergone demolition.

1. Hall of Nations – Pragati Maidan, New Delhi

Demolished Buildings
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

The Hall of Nations by architect Raj Rewal and constructed by Mahendra Raj in 1972 as a part of the Pragati Maidan complex in New Delhi. It was the world’s first and largest space frame structure built in reinforced concrete and held special significance in India’s post-colonial history. Also, the stone pattern in the tetrahedral structure depicted the traditional vocabulary of the surroundings. The building was built to celebrate the 25 years of Indian independence and was used for trade fair exhibitions.

Brutal Demolition (Image Credits: Indian Express)

The building’s demolition on April 24, 2017, was part of a development plan. As a result of the act, it faced a lot of criticism from the architect, conservationists’, and people for tearing down a huge icon of architecture so brutally. India’s heritage conservation committee stated that there would be no need to protect the building as it was less than 60 years old, which was an irresponsible and fatal decision.

2. Twin Towers, Noida

Image Credits: Hindustan Times

Also known as the Noida Supertech Twin Towers, the Apex Tower and Ceyane Tower were the two towers in Uttar Pradesh, India. The towers came under the real estate company Supertech Limited’s Emerald Court residential complex. The plan for the complex came into being in June 2005, and in 2009, the plans for the twin towers were added to the complex. They were originally conceived as 24-story structures to be built on a triangular site. They both had different heights; Apex Tower was 338 feet high with 32 floors, whereas Ceyan Tower was 318 feet high with 29 floors. As the buildings were built under the violating norms, the Supreme Court ordered the demolition. The skyscraper was demolished in 2022 by drilling 9640 holes in the towers and using 3700kg of explosives.

3. National Museum of Natural History, New Delhi

Demolished Buildings
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

The National Museum of Natural History was a museum focusing on nature located in New Delhi, India. It was established in 1972 and opened in 1978. The museum functioned under the Ministry of Environment and Forests of India. The building was situated on the Barakhamba road at Tansen Marg, Delhi. The National Museum of Natural History was demolished in 2016 due to a huge fire. The building was created as a part of the celebration of 25 years of independence.

4. Babri Masjid

Demolished Buildings
Image Credits:

Although the date of construction is uncertain, inscriptions state that Mir Baqi built the masjid in 1528. The architecture of the mosque is similar to the mosques in the New Delhi Sultanate. It followed the Tuglaq architecture style, which was the most elegant style during its time, where there were highly skilled artisans and indigenous art traditions. The regional conflicts between Hindus and Muslims regarding the land on which it was built led to its demolition in 1992.

5. Madras Central Prison, Chennai:

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

The Madras Central Prison was one of the oldest prisons in India, built during the British Raj in 1837. It was called the Madras Penitentiary until 1855, when it was renamed the Central Jail. It was originally built to house transit convicts who were to face ‘Sazaye kala Pani’ in the Cellular Jail of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The building was then handed over to Chennai Metro Rail Limited in 2006 and demolished for new construction.

6. Ludlow castle, Delhi

Demolished Buildings
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Ludlow Castle was a building located in the civil lines of Delhi that served as the residence of the British political agent to the Mughal court during the rule of East India Company in the 19th century. Later on, it was the headquarters of the Commissioner of the Delhi territory within the north-western provinces. It was constructed in the year 1813 for Samuel Ludlow with turrets and decorative crenellations from the 11th century. In the year 1916, the wedding party of Jawaharlal Nehru was held in Ludlow Castle. The demolition of the castle took place in the year 1960, where now stands Modern Senior Secondary High School of Delhi.

7. Malwala Palace, Hyderabad

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Built in the early 18th century by Sagar Mall during the reign of the first Nizam in the year 1724, this was one of the very few palaces in Hyderabad, built in Mughal and Rajasthani styles of architecture. It had an exquisite Diwan Khana made of huge arches in lacqured wood and painted with vegetable dyes, and two galleries at 80m height with Rangoon teak rafters. The palace also had a huge library that hosted a collection of books and manuscripts from the 10th century A.D. It was one of the very few edifices in the city that was constructed with wooden indications. The complex was demolished in 2000 for the construction of a shopping mall in the area.

8. WHO Headquarters, Delhi

Image Credits: Architexturez

Architect Habib Rahman built the WHO Headquarters in Delhi in 1962. It was built on the site, which had an open, stinking sewer on one side and a power house on the other with a chimney that blew out quantities of smoke all day and night. The building consisted of two major elements: a low-slung auditorium and a conference block connected to a six-story office building. It had a very intricate concrete façade in the rear. A beautiful staircase was against a wall of transparent glass, making it visually attractive. The building was an overall representation of the architect’s thoughtfulness in terms of material use, designs, and implications in order to fit the context. The building had become part of the demolition due to the proposal of a new modern building over the place.

9. Tube House, Ahmedabad

Demolished Buildings
Image Credits: Architectuul

Architect Charles Correa designed the Tube House in Ahmedabad in 1960. It was the winning entry in the competition by the Gujarat Housing Board for low-cost housing. Although the competition brief specified walk-up apartments, Correa’s design provided the same density with larger living spaces. Correa developed a low-rise, high-density arrangement of units with such shapes that provided convection of natural ventilation. In fact, the units take inspiration from the wind houses in Sind, Pakistan. The unit eliminates the use of doors and windows with its size of 60 feet by 12 feet. The building was demolished in 2015 to acquire land for new construction.

10. Ramkrishna House, Ahmedabad

Demolished Buildings
Image Credits: Architectural Digest India

In 1964, Architect Charles Correa built The Ramkrishna House in Sahibaug, Ahmedabad. It segregated into four main zones: on the ground floor, there is a family living/entertainment area, the guest room with its own garden, the kitchen, and the service room. A second more private family area is located on the upper floor, with additional bedrooms spanning across the main façade overlooking the garden. In addition, there are two staircases rising in opposite directions. The palatial house was built using exposed brick and concrete with a series of parallel load-bearing walls. As a result of the boost in capitalism, a developer bought the plot, which led to its demolition in the year 1960.

11. Spence’s Hotel, Kolkata

Demolished Buildings
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Brought by the British government during their rule in 1830, Spence’s Hotel was the very first hotel in Asia. The hotel was for the officials coming around to visit India to stay and hold their important legal meetings. The architecture of the hotel depicted the colonial style of columns during that time. During times of political tension, the hotel was considered a neutral place, unlikely to cause any conflicts. The government took over the building area for other uses in 1880.

12. Lal Ded Memorial School, Jammu Kashmir

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Lal Ded Memorial School was one of the oldest schools in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir, India. The school is located on the beautiful banks of the river Jhelum, named after the local poet Lalleshwari. It is a colonial-style building constructed with local techniques, especially the wooden Kashmir crafts. In addition to this, the building had an enormous ceiling that reflected its craftsmanship and royalty. It had wide stairs with split ends at the stair rests, leading to the first floor. A local developer demolished the building in 2009 to construct a shopping complex.

13. Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts

Image Credits:

American architect Ralph Lerner designed the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts in 1985. The building is located in the central vista of the Rastrapati Bhavan in Delhi. This building architecturally shows the colonial architecture style in its construction. As the purpose of the building is to serve the public, its spatial organisation and the elements of the building are very simple.

Rajiv Gandhi established the centre, envisioning the study and experience of the arts in the field of creative literature. As a result, it became the hub for the collection of various arts and cultural forms in India. Being such an important building, it resided on the campus of the current Central Vista, which was planned for two years. This made it necessary to be demolished and reconstructed in the year 2021 for the central vista. Although, Central Vista is for the better, it is disappointing to loose old architecture.

14. Mazagon Fort, Mumbai

Image Credits:

Mazagon Fort was a building located in Mumbai, built in the year 1680. The fort was located at the present Joseph Baptista Gardens atop Bhandarwada Hills outside the dockyard road railway station. The construction of the British fort was to prevent various attacks from the Sidis during the 18th century. This fort proved to be the shield for the British army in the year 1689. But, after the attack, Yakut Khan, the general of the Sidi army, razed the fort to the ground.

15. Lal Mahal, Pune

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

Lal Mahal was an historic icon for India, situated in Pune, Maharashtra. It roots back to the time of Shivaji Maharaj, in the year 1630 AD. It then housed the family of Shivaji, who was a part of the guerilla attack on the Mughal army. Various royal ceremonies took place at the Mahal under its glorious construction of soil and stones. Unfortunately, the 17th-century Mughal attacks destroyed the Mahal, where its reconstruction was in another style.

All of the above buildings once depicted the architecture of their time with the materials, colours, and construction. As a matter of fact, they were razed to the ground after they served their purpose. Few are the buildings that should never have been demolished, as they held a greater value in terms of architecture.

Various factors play their roles in the demolition of a certain building. Looking at these historical demolitions in India, we can say that every destruction of every building is difficult. From time to time, the reasons change, but ultimately, the loss of the architecture of its time remains the same for that particular context.

Even with the loss of these architectural icons in the country, there is no stop to its further amendments. More development in the country is raising the hazards to the existing iconic structures in India. The need for land and the area development plans are the reasons people think of razing the architecture to ruins. Still, there are petitions against the demolition of various iconic buildings in the upcoming years.

1. Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel Stadium, Ahmedabad

Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

2. Louis Kahn Dormitories, IIM, Ahmedabad

Image Credits: Dezeen

3. Patna Collectorate, Bihar

Image Credits: Hindustan Times

The buildings above were by famous architects and have proven to be the gems of architecture of their times and till now. These icons becoming the list of demolished buildings for any larger purpose or development will only make the place lose its identity. As we know, some buildings are the identity of cities. Moreover, their architecture shows the contextual relevance of the specific places.

Hence, destroying them and taking steps towards modernization would only make us lose the essence of the architecture. Therefore, we must take a step back before moving forward and thinking of modernising ourselves with the question of how we can preserve our rich architecture and move forward.

Content Writing And Research By: Ar. Rajeshwari Pandya Modi

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