Stairs of Jawahar kala kendra

© Mehendra Sinh

The Jawahar Kala Kendra Arts Center located in Jaipur was designed in 1986 by acclaimed Indian architect Charles Correa. It was commissioned by the Rajasthan government to preserve Rajasthani Arts and Crafts. The plan is inspired by Jaipur’s original city plan, consisting of nine squares with the central square left open.

Jawahar Kala Kendra Technical Information

  • Architects: Charles Correa Associates
  • Location: Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
  • Client: Government of Rajasthan
  • Built-up Area: 9.5 acres
  • Construction: 5 Years (1986 – 1991)
  • Typology: Cultural Architecture / Museum
  • Project Year: 1991
  • Photographs: © Ashish Bhonde,  © Addison Godel, © Mehendra Sinh
  • Drawing Credits: Courtesy of Charles Correa Associates

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

© Mehendra Sinh

Entrance of Jawahar kala kendra

© Mehendra Sinh

Courtyard stairs of Jawahar kala kendra

© Addison Godel

Jawahar kala kendra

© Addison Godel

Stair of Jawahar kala kendra

© Addison Godel

Transitions Spaces

© Addison Godel

Text by the Architects

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 JKK 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 are a symbol of 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, and so on. 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 coalesce into a kind of cellular reordering – random accretions of requirements that lean against the surrounding high walls like architectural parasites or group and regroup in independent formations. Such accretions create their peculiar definitions of court, suggesting the qualities and scales intrinsic to the functions housed within.

The experience of the museum begins to redefine the very act of cultural display. Heritage, as the design conveys, is a matter of accidental encounter and discovery – a process that 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 wall of the old city – 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

Jawahar Kala Kendra Image Gallery
About Charles Correa

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

In 1958, Charles Correa established his own 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. On 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 outside design of the British Council in Delhi (1987–1992).

Other works from Charles Correa