Edwin Lutyens, a British architect, reinvented the traditional architecture in New Delhi with a colonial flair, nearly a century ago
We all are aware that India Gate and Rashtrapati Bhawan are stately buildings that were taken over by the Indian government at the end of the British Raj. Sir Edwin Lutyens contributions to Delhi were greater than that. Every detail of construction, from the door knobs at the Viceroy’s palace to choosing the plants for the landscape, was designed by the mastermind of Lutyens.
In 1911, Sir Edwin Lutyens, accompanied by Herbert Baker were commissioned to design the “new” capital, New Delhi, which would compete with Washington and Paris.
Features of the Lutyens Delhi
The Viceroy of India had insisted that the architecture of New Delhi would be a blend of Eastern and Western architecture. His idea was to have a fine broad style with minimum decoration but the ornamentation should be of the purest and most ancient forms. To satisfy Indian sentiments, Herbert Baker believed that the best approach would be to graft the myths, symbols and history of India on the classical British architecture.
Spacious colonnades, open verandahs, eaves or cornices overhanging from the structures, narrow and high window openings, wide shade giving stone chajjas, jalis and stone lattice screens, chhatris and free standing pavilions designed on top of the flat roof have become the key features in the design of Lutyens imperialistic New Delhi.
However, Edwin Lutyens was an advocate of western principles of classicism and opposed the use of hybrid form of design. He gave into the Viceroy’s decision to avoid a ‘great political blunder’. You can now see Indian traditional motifs such as the arches, chhatris, central done and gardens representing both Hindu and Mughal architecture.
Lutyens planning of the to-be New Delhi
The initial design of New Delhi had streets crossing at the 90-degree angles, similar to New York, but then to make it responsive to the climate, Lord Hardinge, the Viceroy insisted on a plan with roundabouts, trees and hedges and other landscape features to break the sandstorms in the area, very similar to the plans of Rome, Washington and Paris. The intent of the plan was to be governed by three major visual corridors linking the government complexes. It effortlessly reflects Lutyens’ expression of geometry with the series of triangles and hexagons with the help of sightlines and axes.
The Government complex designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens is the central administrative area of Delhi. Rashtrapati bhavan is located on the top of the Raisina Hill and is the heart of the layout. The Secretariat building houses various ministries of the Government of India is located beside the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Rajpath connects this to the India Gate, crossing Janpath at a right angle and connecting the southern end to Connaught Place. Sansad Marg that runs parallel with the Rajpath leads to the Sansad Bhavan or the Parliament House.
Lutyens’ contributions to New Delhi’s architecture.
Sir Edwin Lutyens was the principal architect of many monuments currently on Delhi’s tourist list. A few of them being The Rashtrapati bhavan, the Secretariat building, the Parliament of India, Rajpath, The India Gate, Janpath, Houses for Patiala, Baroda and Hyderabad, The National Archives of India and Lutyens Bungalow Zone.
India Gate:India Gate was originally called the All India War Memorial and is located on the Rajpath, earlier known as the Kingsway. One of the inspirations for the triumphal arch war memorial designed by Lutyens was Gateway of India in Mumbai. The arch is constructed with local Indian materials like granite, yellow and red sandstone.
Rashtrapati Bhavan or the Viceroy’s Palace:It is the most iconic building by Edwin Lutyens in Delhi. He was involved in the design of every component of the building. It is said even the light fittings, fireplaces and door knobs were designed by Lutyens himself. In 1950, the President of India occupied the building and thus its current name.
Sansad Bhavan or the Parliament House: The Parliament of India is locally known as the Sansad Bhavan. The construction of the building took six years and was inaugurated in 1927. The central hall that is 98 feet in diameter defines the vastness of the structure. Many semi circle halls surround the main structure which are occupied by the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and the library. Sandstone is intricately used around the grand building.