This thesis addresses ways in which nation-building and contemporary architecture are intertwined in India. I take as my subject the ongoing, controversial, and much-publicized Central Vista Project in New Delhi, which was commissioned by the Government of India’s Central Public Works Department in September 2019. The project invited architects to imagine the “Development/Redevelopment of Parliament Building, Common Central Secretariat and Central Vista”—a two-and-a- half-kilometer stretch that forms the so-called ceremonial axis of New Delhi. What is remarkable about the six video submissions to the competition is not only the exclusive participation of Indian design firms but also the pointed exploration of how contemporary architectural forms attempt to negotiate new visual terms for national identity; from a central square unfurled like a lotus flower above which fighter jets zoom, to a sustainable parliament building with a porous steel structure and solar panels, these videos reflect an ideologically potent perception of Indian nationalism.
By bringing to the forefront solutions expressed in filmic terms as part of this state-sponsored competition, I seek to explore the complex nexus of official architecture, political power, and national identity in India today. The driving questions here are: How do the politics of reenvisioning national identity enter into contemporary architectural production? What, in the end, does this tell us about the ease with which contemporary design adapts to changing ideological premises and offers the semblance of fixity to what is, in reality, always subject to the volatile rhythms of regime change?