By MM Ashtha
We have changed Bombay to Mumbai, Madras to Chennai, and Calcutta to Kolkata to put our colonial past behind us, but everyone believes its structures should be preserved. The buildings in Delhi built between 1920s and 30s by British architect Sir Edwin Lutyens is one such example. AG Krishna Menon, Founder of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), says that while these buildings need to be preserved, their names are not always important. For instance, the Viceroy’s House is now the Rashtrapati Bhavan; a different name doesn’t change or take away from its beauty.
Menon is associated with The Lutyens Trust, which preserves and promotes Lutyens’ varied body of work. The trust established a Photographic Archive Committee in early 2004, the contents of which have been available as an online exhibition since January this year. It showcases Lutyens’ country houses, smaller houses, gardens, bridges, estate cottages and social housing from projects across the world including Ireland, Italy and Sri Lanka. It also includes furniture, fireplaces, and lighting that were designed by Lutyens.
The exhibition has a section dedicated to New Delhi, with a focus on the Rashtrapati Bhavan at various stages of construction. Many of the pictures in this section are from EE Hall’s collection (although not necessarily taken by him) who, along with Walter George and William R Mustoe, worked with Lutyens in building, designing and landscaping New Delhi as India’s capital city. Other online exhibits include Hyderabad House, Baroda House, King George V Memorial and India Gate.
Menon recalls an anecdote of Lutyens, who after the construction of the Rashtrapati Bhavan (much to his chagrin) noticed only the tip of the dome was visible from afar because it was located on Raisina Hill. As architect Herbert Baker was the one responsible for this design, people often joked that Lutyens had met his “Bakerloo” when his appeals to lower the entire hill were denied.
Visit http://www.lutyenstrustexhibitions.org.uk for more on Lutyen’s contribution to world architecture.