Home Spotlight CPWD, Architects and Architecture

CPWD, Architects and Architecture

As per the original proposal, War Memorial at “C” Hexagon, India Gate in New Delhi didn’t have a provision for tri colour landscaping around canopy nor was there any provision  of emergency exits. As per the original plan, height of the busts in Param Vir Chakra was more than 1.5 m.  Similarly, Make in India Lion Sculpture when erected was placed inside a glass cage in 2016. Later on the cage was removed. Also,  lowering of height of pedestal was suggested and certain other changes too were suggested but before incorporating those changes the entire structure itself was dismantled in 2017. In all these projects the changes were suggested by Central Vista Advisory Group, a specialized study group of Architects and Town planners to advice the government on such aspects of the development of the central vista and secretariat complex as may be referred to it from time to time.

This signifies the importance of architects and architecture in government designs and in its structures. Architectural wing of the CPWD is the main architectural planning and design force in creation of various iconic buildings throughout the length and breadth of the country.  With the passage of time, the importance has only grown and it has not diminished. No one can undermine the contributions made by them in carrying forward the missions of Government  like  barrier free built environment, Energy Efficiency and Sustainable development. For example, promotion of energy efficiency to improve environmental pollution and quality of life gave rise to creation of most modern – green, energy efficient and net zero energy buildings like Jawaharlal Nehru bhawan and Indira Paryavaran bhawan. At times, they have truly acted as torch bearers of the nation.

Indo-British architectural style of 1950s which one can see in structures like Supreme Court of India building, traditional Indian architectural style with influence of modern architecture of  1960s which is beautifully brought out in structures like Rabindra Bhawan and finally complete shift to present day modern architecture – all bring out changing style of architecture in the country which wouldn’t have been possible without Architecture department of CPWD.  This also shows the behind the screen dominance of the architecture in approving the building designs. However, architects in CPWD were always unsung heroes never getting the limelight which their counterparts get in the private practice. Things have not changed even after the advent of Social Media which have become a popular medium to publicise one’s work.

CPWD is a multi-disciplined organization with officers having core competency in the fields of architecture, civil engineering, electrical and mechanical engineering and horticulture. From preparation of concept design, preliminary drawings and specifications, to preparation of submission drawings and obtaining approvals from local authority and other statutory bodies like CFO, Urban Arts Commission, Airport Authority of India etc. to preparation of working drawings and detailed specifications, to providing inputs at construction stage and finally, to project completion – there is involvement of architects in every stage of project implementation.

Significance of the architecture department was considerably enhanced in 1960s when the entire area of the Central Vista and Secretariat complex in the Capital was brought  under strict architectural control. In 1962 it was decided that no construction or development in the area extending from the Rashtrapati Bhawan to the C- Hexagon around the India Gate would take  place without the specific approval of the Government of India in the Ministry of Works Housing and Supply.  It was also decided to setup a specialized study group of Architects and Town planners to advice the government on such aspects of the development of the central vista and secretariat complex as may be referred to it from time to time.

Few things are more engaging than making important progress toward goals, but the goals of public-sector organizations are often hard to translate into objectively measurable units. Government managers must therefore, clearly articulate long-term missions, values, goals, and impacts – and help employees see how their work connects.World is changing and everything is getting commercialised. Materialism is becoming the foundation of everything. Passion is no longer the driving force and in fact, it is evident by its absence in many occasions. And even the profession of architecture is not an exception to this general change taking place around us. Therefore, attracting talent to public sector agencies and departments has become that much more difficult than it was in the past.

Further, we are living in a world characterized by macroeconomic uncertainty, rapid social change, and technological innovation where citizens’ expectations of what government ought to deliver are rising. While the expectations from the government agencies and in turn from those who are running it are increasing, the results can be meaningful only if the ground level administration comes out of ideological, and redundant tools and techniques that no longer work. Creativity blooms in a free environment and gets boost when it is appreciated. And this is especially so in case of architecture and engineering. When returns (emoluments) are nowhere near to the best in the industry, when passion is no longer a driving force and when good work rarely gets recognised and applauded, getting talent into the organisation may be just a hope than a reality. So the department has to re-work its strategies to attract and retain the talent to live up to its reputation. Otherwise creating new iconic buildings and also maintaining those existing ones will become a bigger problem. Architects are the human resources and they need to be treated like that, if we want to carry on our past legacy.


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