Stairs of Jawahar kala kendra
Jawahar Kala Kendra Steps | © Mehendra Sinh

Renowned Indian architect Charles Correa created the Jawahar Kala Kendra Arts Centre in Jaipur in 1986. The Rajasthan government commissioned the center to safeguard and promote Rajasthani arts and crafts. Correa drew inspiration from Jaipur’s original city plan, which featured nine squares, leaving the central square vacant. The arts center’s design similarly consists of nine interconnected squares, with the central square serving as an open courtyard, providing a sense of unity and coherence to the structure.

Jawahar Kala Kendra Technical Information

The primordial has become a fecund source of the mythic. This is why Picasso and Matisse in their paintings, Stravinsky in his music, and Le Corbusier in his architecture intuitively searched out the primitive.

– Charles Correa
Jawahar Kala Kendra Arts Centre Photographs
Exterior of Jawahar kala kendra
Jawahar Kala Kendra Exterior View | © Mehendra Sinh
Entrance of Jawahar kala kendra
Jawahar Kala Kendra Entrance | © Mehendra Sinh
Courtyard stairs of Jawahar kala kendra
Jawahar Kala Kendra Courtyard | © Addison Godel
Jawahar kala kendra
Jawahar Kala Kendra Facade | © Addison Godel
Stair of Jawahar kala kendra
Jawahar Kala Kendra Steps | © Addison Godel
Transitions Spaces
Walls | © Addison Godel

Designing the Celestial Journey: Charles Correa’s Inspiration

The center is an analog of Jaipur’s original city plan drawn up by the Maharaja, a scholar, mathematician, and astronomer, Jai Singh the Second, in the mid-17th century. His city plan, guided by the Shipla Shastras, was based on the ancient Vedic mandala of nine squares or houses representing the nine planets, including two imaginary ones: Ketu and Rahu. Due to the hill’s presence, one of the squares was transposed to the east, and two of the squares were amalgamated to house the palace.

The design of Jawahar Kala Kendra comes from the city of Jaipur itself, which was based on the nine squares each representing nine planets.

– Charles Correa

Correa’s plan for the Kendra invokes the original navagraha or nine house mandala directly. One of the squares is pivoted to recall the original city plan and also to create the entrance. As in the plan of Jaipur city based on the nine square Yantra in which one square is displaced and two central squares combined, in Kendra, the squares are defined by 8m high walls and symbolize the fortification walls of the Jaipur old city. The squares correspond to real and imaginary planets, such that each becomes the symbolic representation of the setting.

Externally, the planets appear on the red sandstone facades as symbols inlaid in white marble and granite. At the same time, the plan configuration of nine squares corresponds internally to the mythical qualities associated with each planet. Mars signifies power, so the place of Mars, or Mangal Mahal, houses the offices of administration; Guru represents knowledge, and so forms the museum library; Venus, as the artistic sign, encloses the theater complex. At the very center of the universe, and imparting to the planets its creative energy, the sun manifests in the stepped tank, a reservoir of knowledge and confluence, of meeting and reflection.

The journey through the building, the movement through its celestial divisions, is marked by a diversity of spatial densities. Individual buildings inside merge into a kind of cellular reordering – random accretions of requirements that lean against the surrounding high walls like architectural parasites or groups and regroup in independent formations. Such accumulations create peculiar court definitions, suggesting the qualities and scales intrinsic to the functions housed within.

The museum experience begins redefining the very act of cultural display. As the design conveys, heritage is a matter of accidental encounter and discovery. This process relies on the instincts and inclinations of a person moving through space, between the stage set of walls, past recreated incidents, and rituals of art and craft. Such a design conception – suggesting perhaps many internal variations – questions the very conventions of museum design and presents a physical rethink of the idea.

It is easy to accept the inherent arbitrariness of this internal occupation because the external confinement is formed by so reductive, so severe a delineation. Within the nine squares setting is an architecture of wit and whimsy, as singularly playful in its creation as it is specific to the functions demanded of it. Enclosed by high parapets, life goes on inside in the numerous demolitions, insertions, or reorganizations. But the exterior, irresolute in its material joining – like the old city’s wall – remains undisturbed. Like Jaipur, enclosed by high sandstone walls and approached through framing portals, the Jawahar Kala Kendra relives a more contemporary historical destiny.

Jawahar Kala Kendra Plans

Concept Drawing of Jawahar Kala Kendra Arts Centre in Jaipur / Charles Correa
Concept | Credit: Charles Correa Associates
Concept Drawing of Jawahar Kala Kendra Arts Centre in Jaipur / Charles Correa
Concept Floor Plan | Credit: Charles Correa Associates
Floor Plan by Charles Correa
Floor Plan | Credit: Charles Correa Associates
Section Plan | Credit: Charles Correa Associates

About Charles Correa

Charles Mark Correa (1930 – 2015) was an Indian architect and urban planner. Credited with creating modern architecture in post-Independent India, he was celebrated for his sensitivity to the needs of the urban poor and his use of traditional methods and materials.

In 1958, Charles Correa established his professional practice in Mumbai. His first significant project was the Mahatma Gandhi Sangrahalaya (Mahatma Gandhi Memorial) at Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad (1958–1963), followed by the Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly in Bhopal (1967). In 1961-1966, he designed his first high-rise building, the Sonmarg apartments in Mumbai. At the National Crafts Museum in New Delhi (1975–1990), he introduced “the rooms open to the sky,” his systematic use of courtyards. In the Jawahar Kala Kendra (Jawahar Arts Centre) in Jaipur (1986–1992), he makes a structural hommage to Jai Singh II. Later, he invited the British artist Howard Hodgkin for the exterior design of the British Council in Delhi (1987–1992).