Rewal’s buildings embody ideas of sustainability. But, in the recent years, he has focused on energy conservation and used photovoltaic cells to harvest solar power. The Visual Arts Institutional Campus in Rohtak, Haryana; the Energy Technology Centre in Noida; and Coal India Headquarters in Kolkata represent this shift. Large photovoltaic panels, which adorn these buildings, are overpowering and appear uncomfortably dramatic. Probably, these are early stages in his experiments and could soon evolve into a more sophisticated solution. Part of the problem is in his theorisation.
Rewal has often emphasised that every building has a rasa or essence and it has to express it. Following this principle, he simplifies the multidimensional concept of sustainable architecture to the single issue of energy and expresses it through one prominent element — photovoltaic cells. Menon, though, admits that the idea of sustainability is complex and defends such experiments as indicative of Rewal’s propensity to take risks. These debates, however, do not take away from what Rewal has accomplished. He is, undoubtedly, a worthy candidate for the first retrospective at the NGMA. The exhibition with large-scale models, original drawings and mock-up constructions is impressive. It could have gone beyond the structure of a monograph, explored the times of Rewal’s practice, and located his works alongside that of his compatriots. Probably that is reserved for another show. This commendable effort, the curators’ hope, will help highlight the significance of good design.