All India Memorial Landscape Design Competition Winner

Hyderabad: Ms. Smruti Balvalli is the winner of the All India Memorial Landscape Design Competition organised by Hyderabad based S.Jaipal Reddy Memorial Foundation in association with the Indian Society of Landscape Architects (ISOLA) is a professional body of Landscape Architects in India.

Out of 60 plus Landscape Architects who participated in the contest, ISOLA picked up Ms. Smruti Balvalli’s design as the best. She bagged Rs 3 lakh cash prize from the S. Jaipal Reddy Memorial Foundation, a foundation founded in loving memory of former Union Minister and the first South Indian politician for being awarded as the Outstanding Parliamentarian.

Ms Smruti Balvalli is a freelancing landscape consultant and visiting faculty at RV College of Architecture in Bangalore. The award-winning design was unveiled on the eve of the 80th Birth Anniversary of late Shri S. Jaipal Reddy to the guests who visited Spoorthi Sthal, a memorial on the departed leader located at PV Narasimha Rao Marg, on Necklace Road in Hyderabad.

It was unveiled by S Jaipal Reddy Memorial Foundation in the state in the presence of several politicians A. Revanth Reddy, V. Hanumanth Rao, Chinna Reddy, Komati Reddy Venkat Reddy, Prof M. Kodandaram, Gone Prakash Rao and others.

The Indian Society of Landscape Architects, on behalf of the S Jaipal Reddy Memorial Foundation, organized a Memorial Landscape Design Competition. It sought designs through the contest from Landscape architect led design teams and sought proposals that demonstrate excellence in the role of landscape ideas and their interrelation in the design of the Memorial named Spoorthi Sthal.

Indian Society of Landscape Architects (ISOLA) is a professional body of Landscape Architects, with over 360 members it is at the forefront in creating global awareness about the fast-emerging profession of Landscape Architecture in India

India is home to many landmark memorials such as Raj Ghat in loving memory of Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi in Delhi, Chaitya Bhoomi, Shantivan of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, first Prime Minister of India in Delhi; Dr B. R. Ambedkar Memorial in Dadra or Dadar in Mumbai; P.V. Ghat in loving memory of 1st Telugu Prime Minister of India in Delhi and Hyderabad; Shakti Sthal for 3rd PM of India Mrs Indira Gandhi; Veerbhoomi for Rajiv Gandhi and many others

Many memorials are also tourist attractions.

Hyderabad has memorials for P.V. Narsimha Rao, Mr NT Rama Rao, former Chief Minister Dr M. Channa Reddy and others. The landscapes of all these memorials were developed by professionals working in government departments. Spoorthi Sthal is the first Memorial among many in India, to organize a nationwide contest to choose a Memorial Landscape expert for its memorial.

The credit for one of the earliest instances of Memorial Landscaping in India goes to Prof Ravindra Bhan, who designed Shakti Sthal, Indira Gandhi memorial. It was one of the first in the country. Ravindra Bhan is said to be a pioneer in the field of landscape architecture in India. Landscape design of Shakti Sthal, the ‘Samadhi’ of late Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi was envisioned by him.

This is the first memorial competition by ISOLA and by the foundation .The first Memorial in Telugu states to ideate a memorial landscape by a landscape architect.

Spoorthi Sthal is located on a half acre of land at PV Narasimha Rao Marg(Necklace Road). According to S. Jaipal Reddy Memorial Foundation, the Design suggested is likely to undergo some changes, however the core concepts and intent will remain unchanged. And once it is finalized, it will be implemented. Ms Smruti Balvalli who couldn’t make it to the city on 16th January for the 80th Birth Anniversary due to prevailing covid situation visited the Spoorthi Sthal on Wednesday. And also had a meeting with the family members of the late S. Jaipal Reddy. According to the foundation, The landscaping work of the memorial will be aimed to be completed by the next Birth Anniversary of the iconic personality S. Jaipal Reddy.

“Memorials are for mourning, grieving, remembering, healing, loving, crying, smiling, connecting, sharing, ruminating, hoping. They’re for never forgetting our past.

They’re about feeling. They are a form of un-forgetting.“ said Ms Smruti Balvalli, quoting Mr Spencer Bailey, author of “In Memory Of: Designing Contemporary Memorials”,

Memorials function are spaces which speak of the memory of an important event or person. They are usually symbols of great significance and can become part of the culture of a city, providing functional space and hope for the future. The admirers of the departed souls visit these memorials as a mark of respect for their departed leader. They visit, experience the space, take pictures, learn in an indirect manner and they cherish those memories later. With properly developed landscapes at these memorials, a powerful element is added in creating a memorial experience that not only allows the user to become aware of the past but creates a tangible experience within the present, informed Ms Smruti Balvalli.

Landscape architect Ms Smruti, who has almost 10 years of experience in Landscape Architecture, “Societies require continuity and connection with the past to reserve social unity and cohesion – a sense of community. “ Spoorthi Sthalam hopes to be a place to hold that “collective memory”.

Elaborating further, Ms Smruti says, the idea of contemporary memorial landscapes was completely transformed after the award-winning design of the Vietnam Memorial by Maya Ying Lin, an American designer and sculptor. She shot into fame while studying at Yale University in the USA in 1981. She achieved national recognition when she won a national design competition for the planned Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. Her work, Ms Smruti says, is minimal and asks the viewer to reconsider nature and the environment at a time when it is crucial to do so.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a U.S. national memorial which has come up in the year 1982 in Washington, D.C., honoring service members of the U.S. armed forces who fought in the Vietnam War

The memorial landscape architecture comes of age. Landscape architects are holistic – they understand both natural surroundings and the built environment, and the interface between them. With their skills, understanding and expertise, landscape architects’ contribution to society is pivotal and vital as they address both the built and natural environment. It is a fast emerging specialization. But, still, not many Landscape Architects are found in India. Their number in this vast country like India is not much. Not more than 5000 such professionals are said to be practicing this newly emerging specialization. With increasing awareness for the environment, their number is likely to go up. It is estimated that across the world, there are about 75,000 landscape architectures. Landscape architect makes up less than 1% in many developing countries.

According to Smruti, the Research has shown that green urban areas have a positive impact on people’s health, happiness, and longevity and also enhance local biodiversity and ecology.

Explaining her award-winning design, Ms Smruti adds that what was seen of the memorials of the past is that they were STATIC; ‘felt’ the same anytime you visited them, STATUES AND MONUMENTS” were the core of the design that created a ‘observer’ experience rather than a participant and hence lacked an intimate nature, they were MERE DESTINATIONS and lacked a daily association with the locals and due to all these reasons felt “UNSHARED” and not participatory or user engaged. Unlike them, this design for Spoorthi Sthal is envisioned to be such that is celebrates nature, vibrancy, people’s involvement and engagement. It will enhance local and tourist attractions of the city . Necklane road already being a significant landmark in the city, the site and design also has the potential to become a define place to explore, she shares.

The Elegant Memorial, Raj Ghat Dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi attracts 10,000 visitors every day and 20,000 on weekends. It is designed by Vanu G. Bhuta, Architect. The other memorials in the vicinity of Raj Ghat, including those of former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi are also equally popular.

This contemporary memorial landscape intends that it will be an active, positive urban space. It will inspire people to move forward, imbibe learning of the person and his beliefs.

As we move forward in the 21 st century, It will be a major shift from designs structured around the past passive traditional monuments and statues that we have experienced so far , to something much more dynamic ,desired and different.

It will be a memorial together with the leader, and nature will be enjoyed and celebrated. Every attempt will be made to create user-engaged spaces and preserve memories ofthe past.

Jaipal Reddy is widely regarded for his Liberal, progressive and democratic values. He has been an ardent proponent of Democracy and a Representative Form of Government. His thoughts and ideas were penned in his book “Ten Ideologies: The Great Asymmetry between Agrarianism and Industrialism”. Democracy is included in it as a separate chapter.

A politician par excellence, Sri Reddy was a Member of Legislative Assembly four consecutive times, he was Member of Parliament seven times and Union Cabinet Minister for more than 10 years. He had a political career spanning over 50 years. He was a brilliant parliamentarian known for his oratorical skills and political acumen. His speeches were packed with knowledge, information, criticism and wit. He passed away on July 28th in 2019 at the age of 77 years, who despite his physical disability carried on his journey with grit, determination and stood as an inspiration to many.

It will be a memorial that will help us transfer history, knowledge and learnings among the generation in an indirect way. It will not be a mere destination but a part of everyday life walk/transition – physical and visually connected. It will forge an intimate, tactile, physical relationship between Person and Place. It will have several interactive user activities and recreational spaces for individual and group interpretations to keep the site activities throughout the year. Further, it will enhance significance during celebration and commemoration events. And all in all, it provides a sense of belonging, because people own him (the departed leader. He is an iconic figure in Indian politics. He is a towering personality. He is the persona for democratic values. Above all, he was a doting son, husband, father and a great human being. His journey is a great inspiration. His physical deformity never came in between the kind of active political career he cherished. He left an indelible mark on many Indians, and more so on Telugus. Visitors will get to know more deeply about him, not only as a politician but also his values, ideologies and personality.

The Memorial Landscape will be the fittest tribute to the great leader for generations to remember.

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