Showcase IAF Legacy Will Reach More Heaven | Chandigarh News

IAF HERITAGE MUSEUM IN PRESS BUILDING
Reach for the sky …
By Rajnish Wattas
There is an aviator hidden in all of us. Remember the thrill of flying kites, throwing them in the wind, maneuvering in the sky, or maybe a “dog fight” with another, downed by your deadly rope.
The recent news that the Chandigarh administration and the Indian Air Force (IAF) have reached an agreement to establish an IAF heritage museum in the government press building in Sector 18 is very exciting. The IAF plans to “present at the museum its period planes, its armaments and its memories of various wars, in particular the Indo-Pakistani war and the Kargil war”. Other attractions will be a flight simulator, audio-video galleries and a space to present documentaries related to the history of the IAF.
With the tricity of Chandigarh, Mohali and Panchkula having a large population of defense veterans and many of its young people joining the armed forces, the museum will generate greater interest in the world of aviation and the glorious role of our defenders of the sky.
The museum is to be housed in the city’s heritage government press building, one of the first buildings to be built in Chandigarh in 1953. It was designed by Edwin Maxwell Fry, a member of Le Corbusier’s European team, who included Pierre Jeanneret and Jane drew.
While the IAF will surely hire the best talent to develop its exhibit of exhibits, there are some thoughts on adaptive reuse of an existing heritage building that are worth considering.
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
I would like to recall my visit to the world famous Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington. Its stunning exhibits, imaginative exhibits, and evocative themes make it an experience beyond a simple time and space walk of American aviation and space explorations. It engages the visitor, whether a curious child or a veteran, with the same thrill and wonder. In 2018, the museum welcomed around 6.2 million visitors, making it the fifth most visited museum in the world.
Although a comparison between the museums of Chandigarh and Washington is odious; the sharing of ideas, display techniques and methods is worth it.
Being located close to the National Mall, the White House and the Capitol, the Smithsonian opted for a design that would be architecturally impressive but that would not infringe on the historic style of the national icons. Gyo Obata, an American architect of Japanese descent, designed the museum as four cuboid blocks with a marble cladding, connected by three spacious steel and glass atriums housing larger exhibits such as missiles, airplanes and ships. space.
As you enter the museum from the muted exterior, you find yourself in a bulky space with a full height glass wall. This is called the “Boeing Milestones of Flight hall”. Vintage planes are suspended from the glass ceiling, suspended in the air, simulating a flight! My favorite is Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 solo trip across the Atlantic in his Spirit of St. Louis! We had read so much about the legendary flight and seen movies about it. There are of course many other landmark planes and spacecraft on display there.
Then you move on to “The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Antenna”. The world’s first successful airplane from 1903 is the centerpiece of this exhibition. The aircraft was exposed on the ground, so you can see up close, at eye level, the historic craft that ushered in the era of flight.
The other sections, “Moving Beyond Earth,” asks the question: What does the Universe look like? It presents the Universe as it is seen with the naked eye, then shows how the telescope, photography, spectroscopy and digital technology have revolutionized our vision. The other major sections focus on the Cold War era “space race”, and one on “weather and navigation”.
Limitations and constraints of press construction
While we cherish the heritage value of the Press Building, recognizing that it was built in an era of concrete for a limited purpose, it will not be easy to adapt it to a museum that requires large spans. The building is constructed on a tight grid of columns and beams that allow for very limited space to showcase full-size planes, even from the vintage era. At best, most indoor exhibits will be audiovisual in nature, photographs or replicas of model airplanes. Even outdoors, open space is limited for full-size screens.
So why not be a little more innovative? Even the Smithsonian, faced with the problem of putting on more exhibits, established a second museum campus at the Washington Airport. Why then can we not also think of the simultaneous construction of an additional campus of the IAF museum project? A location like the PEC Campus, which has large open spaces and established one of the first courses in aeronautical engineering would be ideal. A museum like this will not only strengthen the institution’s research base, but also bring citizens closer to the technical and scientific wonders of the campus. In fact, the IAF museum should not be limited to the sole theme of the IAF history exhibit, but also partner with ISRO to help set up a ‘gallery of the IAF. ‘space “. We should proudly showcase our recent scientific achievements in space exploration and beyond. This could inspire many more Kalpana Chawlas to emerge.
The press building can house the already proposed Heritage Furniture Museum and Tree Information Center in addition to the IAF Museum to make full use of the vacant building.
May Chandigarh, the “city of tomorrow”, spread its wings to fly high in space.
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Rajnish Wattas is the former principal of the Chandigarh College of Architecture, author, critic and expert in modern heritage.


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