In 2014, The Getty Foundation, Los Angeles, created the Keeping It Modern Initiative to complement the Getty Conservation Institute's Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative (CMAI). The initiative seeks to identify and address the specific challenges faced by architecture ensembles belonging to the Modern Movement, which is one of the defining artistic and cultural movements internationally in the twentieth century. The grants offered will enable the creation of a sustainable and long-term plan for conservation management of sites based on exhaustive research and documentation as well as testing and analyses of materials used. It is under this scheme that the Panjab University applied for a grant for the conservation management planning for one of its most iconic Modernist buildings; the Gandhi Bhawan, in 2015. The Grant was awarded to Panjab University in July2015 to prepare the Conservation Management Plan for the Gandhi Bhawan.
Panjab University is one of the oldest formalised Universities in India supporting teaching and research in science and technology, humanities, social sciences, performing arts and sports. The University’s inception dates back to 1882 AD at Lahore (Pakistan), and shifted later to Chandigarh post-Independence. With the political reorganisation of Punjab, the University became an inter-state body catering to the newly constituted states of Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, along with the union territory of Chandigarh. The Panjab University, with its 78 teaching and research departments besides four chairs for the research on the main campus at Chandigarh, has 188 affiliated/constituent colleges spread over Punjab and Chandigarh besides Regional Centres.
The Chandigarh campus of the Panjab University was planned as a self-sustaining institution in 1956. Presently, the campus extends over 550 acres in two sectors of Chandigarh, with its own housing, administration and public facilities. Jugal Kishore Chowdhury was commissioned to create the original master plan for the campus; however, the reigns of the project were soon handed over to Jeanneret. The University’s in-house architect Bhanu Pratap Mathur carried out the detailing and implementation. It has several individual structures that are recognised landmark buildings of the Modernist Movement in India. The ‘Keeping It Modern’ Initiative announced by the Getty Foundation was seen as an opportunity by the Panjab University and the Development and Research Organisation for Nature, Arts and Heritage (DRONAH) to prepare a conservation management plan for the Gandhi Bhawan.
In particular, Gandhi Bhawan was proposed for the planning grant since it suits the evaluation criteria set by the Getty Foundation. It is a heritage building with architectural, scientific and cultural value as well as being symbolic of the structures that represent the extensive nation building exercise undertaken in the 1950s and 60sin India. The Gandhi Bhawan is a building associated with several key historic moments in Post–independence history of the country. Inaugurated in 1962, by Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the first President of independent India, the structure has been a home for prominent visitors over the years. The project proposal submitted to the Getty Foundation highlighted the potential of this initiative to raise the profile of this twentieth century heritage as well as develop sound methodologies for its conservation.
DRONAH is a multi-disciplinary organisation that looks at developing cohesive strategies for conservation, management, adaptive re-use and interpretation for historic sites and has had previous experience in large collaborative projects that aim to develop benchmarks in the field. Established in 2003, DRONAH has steered several cultural heritage works at the national and international levels for India. It has successfully completed projects funded by the Getty Foundation in the past, namely, the Conservation Master Plan for the City Palace Complex, Udaipur for the Maharana Mewar Charitable Foundation (MMCF), funded in 2007 and then again in 2009 through Architecture Planning Grants of the Foundation.
This comprehensive conservation management plan for Gandhi Bhawan, is the first comprehensive plan for a Modern heritage structure in India to serve as a pilot for conservation of Modernist architecture in the country. The rich repository of heritage under the charge of the Panjab University represents some of the key achievements of Modernism in India. The plan emerges from the combined expertise of the large inter-disciplinary team from DRONAH, Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) and other associate experts along with the in-house expertise of Panjab University to ensure a scientific and sustained approach towards conservation of Modernist architecture in the country.