An Architectural Homage To A Socialist’s Spirit

The Jayaprakash Narayan Interpretation Centre in Lucknow is dedicated to a simple man of complex thoughts. It is also a structure that heralds a new future of public architecture in India.

The Jayaprakash Narayan Interpretation Centre in Lucknow is a tall, simple but unconventionally-shaped building. The monolithic structure features clean lines and an even red terracotta coating that lends it a brooding gravitas. Placed like a bindi on its forehead is a visage of the titular freedom fighter, a facet brought alive by a skylight located on the slope of the structure. In its neighbourhood is the lovely Ram Manohar Lohia Park. Designed by Noida-based Archohm Consults, the centre is actually a gateway to The Jayaprakash Narayan International Convention Centre, the buildings standing face-to-face with a central void separating them.

The project design works a dexterous balance of ideas and symbols to achieve the best representation of JP, the person, while also establishing a monument that could inspire the city’s modern architectural future. While the more elemental feel of the façade communicates simplicity, the scale of the shell (with a 20 mt.-wide and 9 mt.-high arch) is meant to represent boldness of thought. “It best diagrammatically represents the triad of objectives of socialism as conceived by JP – freedom, equality and brotherhood. Three of these words are celebrated and etched in multiple languages on the terracotta panels,” states the team.

The wedge-shaped building’s first impression is of calm solidity, but it is just a triple-leveled envelope for a far more complex interior layout. The exhibition swathe follows the rule of theme-specific sections, but breaks the rules of an expected layout with the help of a network of spiral stair-wells, intermittent arched walls, and ramps. “Volumes are inserted within volumes to add layers of complexity and as surprises to the experience of space-making,” adds the team.

The entire space has been carefully designed to be a playground for natural light, which is sometimes let in unguarded and is at other times sent through a diffusion filter. The idea was to let every visitor pass through a prism of dim to bright light while moving from a place of information and absorption to, ultimately, contemplation and collective introspection facilitated by an open-air theatre hugged by a green landscape.

“The pavilion sits in a body of water in the sunken courtyards. Consequently, it seems to float and gifts itself a surreal character, a lightness that makes light of the massiveness,” explains the team. The water also helps create a cooler micro-climate inside, perfect for a cerebral escape from the heat outside. Helping along is the dry-clad skin of the façade made of custom-designed perforated terracotta tiles; it is separated from the inner main wall by a buffer zone filled with rock wool.  

Aside from the main exhibition galleries that are filled with photographs, notes, memorabilia, and other items relating to JP, the building features an atrium, a library, a fun children’s section, and two cafeterias. “The two cafeterias named ‘Namak’ and ‘Chawal’ after the items consumed by the Hazaribagh jail breakers on the run. A shop called ‘Char Anna’- the amount the fugitives lived on, sells memorabilia as takeaways from the museum,” explains the team.

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