arts and design

Muni Ganju obituary

My friend Muni Ganju, who has died aged 78, advanced the science and practice of architecture in India over a period of 55 years, having studied for his profession in the UK. As well as being a practising architect he was also a philosopher on architecture and urbanism whose intensive investigation of human needs and wishes informed his work.

The M N Ashish Ganju architectural studio in Delhi produced an impressive range of work, including the housing quarter in Delhi known as the Press Enclave, the Temple Court at McLeod Ganj for the Dalai Lama, and the Dolma Ling Nunnery at Dharamsala. His projects were always a clear synthesis of brief and context and not in the least concerned with architectural acrobatics, or any form of authoritarian ideology.

Muni was born in Lyallpur (now Faisalabad) in what was then British India and is now Pakistan. His father was Shyam Ganju, a furniture designer and businessman, and his mother was Kamini Gamkhar, a homemaker. He studied at St Columba’s school in New Delhi and then the Indian Institute of Technology in Kharagpur, West Bengal, before travelling in 1961 to the UK to train at the Architectural Association in London, where we met.

The Dolma Ling Nunnery at Dharamsala, designed by Muni Ganju
The Dolma Ling Nunnery at Dharamsala, designed by Muni Ganju

After completing his studies in London he returned to India in 1968 for a short period of further academic study. The following year he was back in England to gain experience, including with Norman Foster’s practice, and he returned to India for good in 1971, setting up as MN Ashish Ganju Architects in Delhi. From 1972 onwards he also took on some teaching work at the city’s School of Planning and Architecture and at the Indian Institute of Technology, both in Delhi. In 1990 he established a new architecture school in the city – TVB School of Habitat Studies (now the University School of Architecture and Planning) – where he was principal for 10 years.

Thanks to Muni’s knowledge and experience, he eventually advised the Indian government on environmental policy and became involved in the regeneration of Delhi and other cities in India. He was an intelligent and influential architect, and his legacy is a powerful one that will surely endure.

Muni never retired, and was still active up to his death, building and teaching. His leisure time was often spent in reading on a wide variety subjects related to architecture, including sustainable development, philosophy, history and spirituality.

He is survived by his wife, Neelima (nee Dhar), whom he married in 1969, and their daughters Tara, Chandini and Surya.


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