New Delhi, India

The Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, held a limited competition amongst six invited architects to design the ministry’s headquarters complex, facing the Central Vista on the Raj Path, in New Delhi.

The studio team studied Lutyens’ angular city plan for New Delhi, and analyzed various structures conceived by him a century before. This influenced the team to disaggregate the facade into angular planes, breaking down the scale, and atomizing the form, as it faces the Central Vista. The angles of the turning facades respond to the greater geometry of Lutyens’ city plan, and within the complex are reflected in the coffered ceilings that span large halls. Of particular interest to the team was the architectural language employed by Herbert Baker and Edwin Lutyens in their designs for the Parliament Building, North and South Blocks, the Rashtrapati Bhavan and in palatial princely residences along the Raj Path. This influenced the deployment of pink and red sandstone, references to Mogul motifs, and Rajput visual techniques. Security and privacy were major concerns, catalyzing a strategy of fort-like walls with modulated, vertical slit apertures. The garden compositions integrate the buildings into the urban landscape, merging the Cartesian boundary geometry into the diagonal geometry of the site’s boundaries.  Moghul garden motifs and sandstone jaalis were employed extensively.

The studio’s analysis and design initiatives elicited a facade pattern of narrow, vertical sandstone panels, separated by horizontal sandstone bands at every meter. On the upper levels, these jaali-like patterns are simply left open to the sky, where hidden courts offer sit-outs and visual retreats for senior ministerial officials. This envelope assures high security from eves dropping, while cutting out glare and enhancing the efficiency of cooling systems. A system of pattern designs was created, alluding to Indian icons such as the lotus, mandala, swastika and Wheel of Development. These patterns and others were brought together into a system of motifs that would sparingly adorn the complex.

It was decided to focus the main entrance atrium around a water pool, overflowing into a large channel, cascading down shoots, as are found in Vernag and Nishant gardens in Kashmir. The water then fans out into a diagonal maze of water channels, as in a Mogul garden, until the diagonals turn completely perpendicular, and in alignment, parallel to the Central Vista reflecting pools. The overall architectural composition employs a system of vertical shafts to counterpoint the horizontal massing. Round, fire-cum service stairs are posited just away from the walls, casting their own shadows and moods. The use of these vertical elements liberates the interior spaces to be column-free expanses, hospitable to open office landscape systems.

The design thus addresses a number of planning and visual design issues through a single architectonic statement. It addresses, in an integrated manner, the needs for functionality and building systems efficiency; for urban design consistency and for landscape architecture compatibility; for the city’s strong planning context; and  for a relevant architectural language and fabric.

LocationNew Delhi, India

Built Up Area

Site Area8.9 Acres



Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India

Prime Contractor



Deepak Kaw

Design Team

Prof. Christopher Benninger, Jagdeesh Taluri, Amit Oberoi,Deepak Guggeri, Angela Chang, Mausam Duggal, Daraius Choksi and Rahul Sathe