The Ministry of Finance along with its Department of Revenue is responsible, directly or indirectly, for India’s rise as a global economic power. It represents all the values associated with the new India’s aspirations, post 1992’s economic liberalization. These aspirations include: 1) A democratic India that is built by and for the people wanting to break free from a conservative or imperialistic vision. 2) A need for trust and transparency within the administrative departments of the country. 3) A sense of identity for the people of India that is not forgetful of the past but also one that wants to move forward with the right values and attitudes to the notion of development.
The competition entry for the Rajaswa Bhawan—the offices of the Ministry of Finance in the heart of Delhi on a prime site occupied by army barracks—took up the challenge not only to represent such ideals but also effect a sense of change within an older order.
Since this was the first major architectural competition of the present millennium in India since the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) competition of 1987, the winning scheme would also need to track the change in thinking since Ralph Lerner's well proportioned but orientalist / colonial visions for a building for the IGNCA.
The new monuments of our democracy are our public and government institutions and their archetypes in plazas, steps, public courtyards, places of gathering, places of revolt etc.
Flanked by three important roads and equidistant from three metro stations the site becomes a culmination of journeys from different parts of Delhi. A large urban plinth in the design gathers these journeys and then extends outwards to the local context. This five feet high plinth, at once an extension of the surroundings and a destination, becomes also the symbol of democracy. Intended for easy access and communication, this common platform for the staff and visitors of the various departments of the complex, replaces the built plinth of colonial buildings of the area as the new monument to democracy. The various departments of the building hover above this plinth forming vistas and relationships to the surrounding context. These floating buildings that span across shear cores, sometimes cantilevering sixteen meters are the symbols of India's boldness and confidence in a global arena. A spatial as well as a formal attention to the two important intersections on the Madhav Rao Scindia Marg anchors the project to its context. Some very beautiful trees on site have not only found respect but have been celebrated through courts, amphitheaters and enframing walls of the buildings.
A prominent aspect of the outward appearance of the building are the copper screens which embellish the facade with their diffused metallic sheen. A shading device, the screen provides an interactive building element which allows users to feel part of the built structure by being able to control the light and view to suit their requirements. The screens are made of copper discs reminiscent of the ancient coins that witnessed the rise of our civilization since the days of Chandragupta Maurya. We found the copper coin a poignant symbol of the trust in a system of monetary transaction. The discs, which rotates within the centrally pivoted screen, can be used to reflect sunlight onto the ceiling to bring light deeper into the space. This function reduces both airconditioning as well as lighting costs.