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Rashtrapati Bhavan’s unique flooring pattern is now the subject of a book

Professor Sangeeta Bagga says Interpreting Geometries is based on their research on intricate flooring patterns of Rashtrapati Bhavan, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1929 for the Viceroy of India.

Rashtrapati Bhavan’s unique flooring pattern is now the subject of a bookSangeeta Bagga says Interpreting Geometries is based on their research on intricate flooring patterns of Rashtrapati Bhavan, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1929 for the Viceroy of India. (Sourced/Express)

Six months ago, Professor Sangeeta Bagga from the Chandigarh College of Architecture received a special call from the Rashtrapati Bhavan’s press office. The task assigned to her was to survey the heritage building and suggest ideas to bring its intricate flooring geometry into focus, something that has never been documented before.

Multiple visits were planned and Bagga, along with three other faculty members and six students, worked day and night to complete the work in the given timeline. The result: a pictorial book titled Interpreting Geometries which spotlights the one-of-a-kind flooring of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, its unique, repetitive motifs and designs, and its use of rare stones.

Special study has gone into floral patterns embossed on geometrical backgrounds. (Sourced/Express)

On the last day of his presidency, this was among the three books released by former President Ram Nath Kovind, in the presence of his successor (and now President) Droupadi Murmu, Vice-President Venkaiah Nadu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and I&B Minister Anurag Thakur. The other two books released on the day were more personal in nature – Moods, Moments and Memories: Former Presidents of India (1950-2017), A Visual History; and First Citizen – Pictorial Record of President Ram Nath Kovind’s Term.

Bagga says Interpreting Geometries is based on their research on intricate flooring patterns of Rashtrapati Bhavan, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1929 for the Viceroy of India. “Lutyens was heavily influenced by classicism. Building New Delhi was his first major urban project, and he fused many styles in its aesthetic, even using chhatris and copolas,” she says, “but this kind of flooring pattern he hasn’t used anywhere else. The flooring pattern engages you, it keeps changing with movement; in fact, the floor impacts the functionality.”

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She says it shows that he had started exploring his aesthetic while he was designing this particular building. “He used to write letters to his wife from here, who greatly influenced his work, his father was a artist who painted; the Rashtrapati Bhavan is the ultimate example of his design aesthetic, like a grand finale of all he did elsewhere in the Capital,” he remarks.

The meticulous designs on the floors, each different from the other, make it a collector’s item, says a statement from I&B Ministry, which has published the book.

Kovind called the book “a value addition” to the knowledge and research of Rashtrapati Bhavan, and expressed his views about the flooring — how it’s different and unique in every space, as he experienced during his work routine of five years.

While the introductory chapter describes the design philosophy and inception of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the other chapters comprise multiple architectural floor plan drawings, floorings pattern drawings, and interpretation sketches to understand the flooring in various steps. Decoding of the patterns has been done by the authors on the basis of available archival drawings of flooring created by Lutyens during the commencement of the project, based upon design principles (symmetry, rhythm, balance, order and hierarchy).

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Special study has gone into floral patterns embossed on geometrical backgrounds. The book puts forth the workmanship of the artisans who worked tirelessly for 18 years to build this residence. The meticulous designs on the floors, each different from the other, make it a collector’s item, says a statement from I&B Ministry, which has published the book.

It says the idea of the publication stems from the inherent importance of the building as the residence of the First Citizen of India. The flooring patterns, both floral and abstract, run through different areas of the complex and bind them together – the loggias, porticos, entrance halls, staircases, grand halls, ceremonial halls and attendant spaces.

There is extensive use of materials such as red sandstone, buff stone, marbles, Indian patent stones, wood and terrazzo by Lutyens to present a visual aesthetic which enhances the spatial quality, sequentially as well as flow of spaces from one area to another, says the book. It is a unique example where a building of such colossal and palatial nature and proportion in India has utilised the art of geometry in flooring, it adds.

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Besides the President’s Office, the H-shape building has four wings – Guest Wing, Family Wing, Press Secretariat and Cabinet Secretariat – on its four sides. The second volume – which will be out early next year – would detail out the flooring patterns in four wings of the building. Bagga says these results can be used to decode the geometry of flooring in similar projects in the future also.

First published on: 28-07-2022 at 07:12 IST
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