Bharat Ram Centre
Bharat Ram Centre is a central illustration of how the College has evolved its approach to balancing conservation with use. The goal of the institution is for total campus management as a cultural ecosystem. The College is exceptionally alert and sensitive to the optimal use of its built-up and green areas, owing to its long history and the status of the academic building as heritage site. Its tree cover, too, includes many old plantings which must be preserved. The College has evolved its campus as a space where its use by students is not opposed to conservation of the natural environment. Instead, each supports the other. The students and teachers requires spaces for academic and extra-curricular interaction and open participation, which is one of the goals of the Parliament. This need is balanced with the determination not to reduce the eco-friendliness of the campus by reclaiming, renovating and reorienting campus structures in innovative ways.
Situated amidst the hostel, and the staff residences, the Bharat Ram Centre was originally a dilapidated structure which was not used for anything. It was constructed around 1825, as a guard house. Before the Bhare Mutiny, it was originally used by British hunters to store their weapons while on shikar. The single-storeyed structure was clearly of significant age and showed signs of Raj-period construction and aesthetics. The green area around it had fallen into disuse and was overgrown. Given the limitations on new construction, it was decided to take up renovation of the structure, and to give it to students as a unique space for self-expression and interaction.
After its reclamation and renovation, the structure was named after Shri Bharat Ram, a towering figure in the College’s history who had been Chairman of the Governing Body for 50 years. The guard house was converted into a students’ art gallery which may be the only one of its kind in the North Campus. Works of art were put on the walls, and the building was opened to student use. Thus, the guardhouse was repaired and restored for use as an art gallery. Its inauguration was celebrated with Rang Srijan, an inter-college painting exhibition. The Vice-Chancellor of the University was the honourable guest who ceremonially opened the Bharat Ram Centre.
Abstractions, the College Fine Arts Society, has a history of more than 25 years. Ever since its inception it has stimulated and supported experimentation in forms of art including painting, sketching, graffiti, clay-modelling, calligraphy, etc. However, there was no established space for displaying the society’s achievements. The Centre has since remained Abstractions’ home. The Bharat Ram Centre sees a variety of different uses and reorientations every year. Not only do individual students seek it out as a place of contemplation, socialisation, and leisure, it has also become an imposing, visually striking venue for a number of clubs to showcase their events. For instance, within the last five years: Vivre (the film and photography society), celebrated its annual fest (2014) ‘Snap’ beginning with a photo exhibition at Bharat Ram Centre. Student and faculty guests from many other colleges, as well as the guest speaker Mr. William Chang (an award winning photographer) enjoyed seeing the photographs displayed at such a site. Abhyas (the internship cell) held its inaugural internship fair Apprentissage at Bharat Ram Centre and attracted scores of students from various colleges. Adhrita the classiscal dance society has its practice sessions and performances at the centre.
Today, the Bharat Ram Centre has become a focal point of campus life. The interconnectivity of the College’s people and spaces can be seen centred here—the green space around it is still natural, but no longer abandoned. Instead it has become a synthesis of art, conversation and natural quiet. It is famous among successive generations of students as a location where interesting events are hosted, but also where individuals or groups relax. Thanks to many distinguished visitors to the College who have been shown round the art gallery, and to the variety of society events put up, the Bharat Ram Centre appears in College reports, society bulletins and campus news. It has thus become a connecting link between students both within and outside the College. It is a success because it has created a multi-utility, adaptable and versatile, aesthetic and natural space without destroying any green cover or constructing any buildings.