Handshakes from the World

A coffee-table book takes one on a walk-through of foreign missions in Delhi.

By: Entertainment Feature Service | Published:April 12, 2014 1:44 am
Gladys Klodt (left) Gladys Klodt (left)

Gladys Abankwa-Meier-Klodt is trained as a micro-biologist and its her spirit of inquiry and pursuit toward detailing that surfaces in her book Delhi’s Diplomatic Domains: Chanceries & Residences of Chanakyapuri & Imperial New Delhi (Full Circle; Rs 3,499). Wife of a senior German diplomat and the daughter of career diplomats from Ghana, Klodt took over two years to collate material for the 40-odd diplomatic offices in Chanakyapuri.

On April 4, the book celebration at the Taj Mahal Hotel, Delhi included artefacts from over 11 embassies including France, Ghana, Hungary, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Venezuela.

The 245-page coffee-table book has the history and architecture mapped of each embassy, crowned with government documents, maps, letters and photos from their respective archives. Founder-Director of Aurodhan Art Gallery in Pondicherry, Lalit Verma is the photographer for the book.

Klodt chooses five of her favourite design-centric details that range from exposed brick facades to arcaded pool houses.

Of the Earth

Belgium chose a highly unconventional form for its embassy. Designed by muralist and sculptor Satish Gujral, the country’s representation eschews traditional embassy form, adopting Mughal features in monument-like fashion. The only allusion to Belgian-ness is the exposed brick of the facade. Its unique topography was a favourite of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who often played tennis on the embassy’s courts.

African Heritage

In Sudan’s embassy, stately royal palms line the driveway from the embassy’s entrance to the Chancery, imparting to the compound a distinctly Nilotic feel. A unique feature of the embassy is its mosque, clad in local pink and red sandstone like the rest of the complex, with an open, dome-shaped tower on its western facade, facing Mecca. The house of worship is open to Muslim members of the diplomatic community on Fridays and was originally conceived to be the first cultural centre of an African country in New Delhi.

Point of View

The Embassy of Brazil, located in the Lutyens’ Bungalow Zone rather than Chanakyapuri, has the distinction of having continually occupied the same premises since 1949. An exceptional feature of the property is the arcaded pool house, painted in a distinctive blue, and open to the sky. Originally a closed building capped by a roof, it is now a focal point in the verdant lawns, fronted by a landing which doubles as a dais.

Symbol of Identity

Bhutan’s mission stands out as an unparalleled example of representation in traditional architectural idiom. Every building is built following time-honoured, Bhutanese practices, which call for detailed, symbolic ornamentation. Though one of the smallest countries, its mission occupies the 10th largest allotment in Chanakyapuri, part of which was purportedly once a cremation ground.

Inside Connection

The Residence of the Australian High Commission was the work of the prodigious expatriate US architect Joseph Allen Stein. His signature “regional Modernist” architectural style, embeds his buildings in lush, landscaped gardens. Stone, perforated solid screens, water bodies and wide verandahs are used in the Residence to offset the effects of the harsh climate. The bright representational area is extended outwards by tall windows into the surrounding verandah and the garden, creating an overwhelming sense of openness, light, and tranquillity.

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