The Delhi Art Gallery is an endeavour to create a simplistic space to retail the best of contemporary art in India, while positioning itself as part of the new Indian Contemporary Art Retail Paradigm. Morphogenesis faced a new kind of challenge when taking on the restoration of the century-old building Delhi Art Gallery in Mumbai, India. The firm employed an adaptive reuse philosophy for restoring the heritage building. The four-storey structure, which was built more than a century ago, now offers a mesmerising balance of conservation and the contemporary.
Photo by Deepshikha Jain
Located in the art district of Kala Ghoda, the building is both a site for art and heritage in Mumbai. Its surroundings are full of colonial-era structures, most of which have undergone renovation. The four-storey Delhi Art Gallery itself is an art exhibition space on its first two levels, while the next two upper levels hold a permanent gallery that displays various kinds of artwork, as well as a sculpture courtyard, an auditorium, several private lounges and offices.
The building’s design was handled by Morphogenesis, a renowned architectural consultancy in India with two decades of experience. The major challenge faced by the firm was in balancing the ornate character of the building with its intended function of an art gallery, which by nature must be minimalist. The vision was to emphasise heritage values without anachronistic imitations.
Adaptive reuse was implemented to create an ultimate balance, which became the main design theme in the conservation of the building. Efforts to preserve the original elements of the building and to combine the new with the original construction was also a challenge that needed thorough planning and consideration.
The building’s exterior underwent major reconstruction, taking inspiration from the original building by preserving the original wrought iron and stucco materials of the old structure. Arranged geometrically with rhythmic patterns, the flower-shaped motifs that appear are an adaptation and extrapolation of the surrounding buildings. In keeping with the heritage spirit, signage-a modern day necessity was deftly interwoven into the details.
Morphogenesis has presented a remarkable interior design to suit the building’s function as an art space.
“We looked at stripping the building of all its additions over time and bringing back its original volume,” Sonali Rastogi, the principal architect of Morphogenesis, says. Past illegal alterations had resulted in a whole floor being scooped out, resulting in rising damp on the lower floors, affecting the foundation. The original floor level was reinstated after damp proofing and strengthening of the foundations. As the building is an art gallery, a soft colour scheme was selected to ensure that the works of arts on display were able to stand out. A choice of white and beige for the walls combined with dark shades for the timber on the floors create a perfect sense of spatial strength for the room. In addition, ceilings were left exposed, displaying two different construction methods that combined wood and stone materials.
Apart from a clean interior design, the focal point of the century-old building lies in its unique and eye-catching façade, which presents a glorious restoration reflected by a brilliant and sensitive lighting scheme. On one facade the was unadorned, pilasters were recreated to conceal and embed services within them, to match both facades. The gallery has an historic legacy that has been preserved by its contemporary restoration.
Delhi Art Gallery
Gross Floor Area
648 sqm (Built-up area)
Interior Design Consultant & Lighting Designer
Sonali Rastogi, Neelu Dhar, Sumeet kumar, Rohit Sharma
Mechanical & Electrical Consultant