Museums India

Indian museum jury picks Foster design

But the jury and the state government fail to see eye-to-eye on cost of Patna Museum plan

A sculptural frieze depicting Tara from the Patna Museum

The architects Foster + Partners have been chosen by an international jury as the preferred design to build the £45m Patna Museum in India, but the state government is reluctant to proceed with the commission because of the size of the architect’s fee. The contract could, therefore, for financial reasons, go to the runner-up for best design, the Tokyo-based architectural firm Maki.

Five architects were shortlisted in a competition to find an architect, among them Daniel Libeskind of New York, Coop Himmelblau from Vienna and the Oslo-based Snøhetta. The jury, which included the Indian artist Subodh Gupta, the director of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, Martin Roth, and the Irish architect Roisin Heneghan, made its choice in December. The London-based Foster + Partners declined to comment as the results have not been publicly announced.

Set in a wooded area on the outskirts of Patna in northeast India, Foster’s ambitious design has an irregular, wave-like roof, with dozens of mature trees piercing through the structure. Below this canopy, which is a shelter from the sun and monsoon rains, are the interlocking museum buildings and spaces.

The design includes nine thematic galleries (covering prehistory to 1400 AD), four galleries of religious art (Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and tribal) and three specialist collection galleries (coins, Tibetan Thangka paintings and terracottas).

Bihar state, which lies in eastern India just south of Nepal, was the centre of the Mauryan empire in the 3rd century BC. It is also said to be the place where Buddha gained enlightenment.

The existing Patna Museum, set up by the British in 1917, is an antiquated and unsuitable building, with poor environmental conditions. It has a particularly fine collection of sculptures, including the Didarganj Yakshi statue, excavated from the banks of the Ganges in 1917.

Bihar’s chief minister Nitish Kumar, who has been the driving force behind what promises to be one of the finest museums in India, says that the building is due to be completed in 2015.

A follow-up to this article was published on our website on 28 February. See related story

The Didarganj Yakshi (or Didarganj Chauri Bearer), Mauryan, around third century BC, from the Patna Museum
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