Chronicles Architectural State of the Capital
In one of his many dictations to Ganpathy of The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor, the author of the Mahabharata says, "It is difficult for you, living now with the evidence of poverty around you, taking it for granted as a fact of life, to conceive of an India that was not poor, not unjust, not wretched. But that was how India was before the British came, or why would they have come?"

On the eve of his departure from India, Lord Curzon proclaimed — 'Our work is righteous, and shall endure'. Referring in particular to the capital of the jewel in the crown, he displayed the customary self-righteousness of the imperialist, but he was accurate in his claim that the institutions left behind by the British would endure the winds of change and remain, to this day, bastions of a bygone era. New Delhi was one such reminder of a forgettable past.

Edwin Lutyens, a well-known designer of country-homes in England, was suddenly given the enviable opportunity to design a whole city from scratch, and did so with the chauvinistic zeal of a true colonizer. New Delhi was spread out in hexagons and triangles ad infinitum and, as a strange gesture towards the Indian subjects, Lutyens placed a model of the Sanchi Stupa as the dome atop the Viceregal Palace (now known as the Rashtrapati Bhavan). He did not know that stupas had more to do with death than with vanity and glory. The palace was surrounded by concentric rings of power, for the architect had made sure that the distance from an officer's bungalow to the palace was inversely proportionate to his rank and, to the fairness of his skin, The natives were relegated to life in the suburb of Paharganj and in the already over-crowded Walled City — the only meek challenge that Delhi's history could offer to the might of the Raj. Writing home in 1912, Lutyens recorded the sentiments that guided his design of the city — "The natives do not improve on acquaintance. Their very low intellects spoil much and I do not think it possible for the Indians and Whites to mix freely and naturally. They are very different, and even my ultra-wide sympathy with them cannot admit them on the same plane as myself."

After making their tryst with destiny in 1947, the Indians quickly moved into the homes and offices of their deposed rulers. It was a typical Indian irony that the President of the Republic was as comfortable living in the palace of the highest imperial authority as the representatives of the world's largest democracy were in the bungalows of officials of the Raj. Territories were handed out to the numerous "brown-sahibs" that took over the reins of the countless departments and divisions of the state. The stranglehold of the 'brown-sahib' was consolidated in 1964 when the Master Plan for Delhi was made an Act of Parliament, The Master Plan transplanted many ideas from the U.S.A., with whom India found a peculiar affinity simply because both nations had driven out the British. American suburbia was sought in a city that was already trying to reconcile the English Garden-City with the Moghul Fortress town. Despite the limited role that architects were allowed to play in this complicated reconciliation, some of their hedonistic contributions nevertheless created oases of urbanity in an otherwise green wasteland dotted with bungalows.

Retained as the national capital, Delhi continued to be a focus of political patronage, and architectural activity boomed in the wake of frantic policy-making and "nation-building." The early-fifties saw an energetic revivalism of what the government saw as "Indian" architectural styles but all the chhatris and jalis in the nation could not hide that fact that the new institutions to be built were not havelis and temples. The Krishi, Udyog and other Bhavans on either side of the Rajpath are testimony to this period when the PWD architects thought that the North and South blocks were appropriate prototypes for democratic institutions. The immaturity of the PWD architects, who had been trained by the British to perform mundane draughtsmanship, was evident as late as in 1958, when they designed the Supreme Court of India in a grand colonial style — not inviting the long subjugated masses to claim their newly created rights but reminding them that the ominously familiar grandeur probably housed an equally inaccessible justice

Things started looking up as a young breed of architects returned from training in the West and finally brought back ideas that were current in the West. The main client was still the State and the main requirement was for office-buildings — indeed, a lot of office-space was required to house the organs of Nehruvian Socialism! The Post and Telegraph Office, State Bank of India, and The Bank of Baroda on Sansad Marg, all marked a break with the arbitrary revivalism that shaped earlier buildings in the capital. Form had to follow function and any ornamentation only undermined the rational purity of the layout of spaces within the building. The P&T Building and Rabindra Bhavan by Habib Rahman, were sited on typical Lutyens-ish roundabouts but did more to enhance the open space than anything that the British had managed to build in similar situations. But addressing the circular space directly with their form, these designs were inspired both by the notions of open-space as in the Indian chowks enclosed by suitably designed structures, and by the principles of place-making propagated by architects of the Baroque period in Europe. Apart from the Gole Market circle and the oversized Connnaught Circus, it was strange that Lutyens and his team had not attempted to explore the problem of building on a circle further, even though they had the models of Trafalgar Square and Picadilly Circus to give them inspiration.

At a more modest scale, C.S.H. Jhabvala set precedents with his design for the Kirorimal College in the Delhi University, which already boasted of the St. Stephen's College designed by Walter George, a founder of the Department of Architecture in New Delhi. Even though the exposed-brick buildings coexist with the generous landscaping, once again the chhatris are incongruous and the symmetrical self-consciousness of George's design overplays the colonial theme. Jhabvala's design took a refreshing look at both the logic of a functional layout of spaces and the Indian-ness that that logic could accommodate. As the spine of the college, the corridor links various courtyards, lobbies and open-spaces that counterpoint the solemnity of the academic and administrative functions. In his treatment of the corridor, where all the "action" of the college lakes place, the architect interweaves an Indian plurality of character that all too often gets suppressed by the rigid functionalism of an academic institution.

To carry on from such precedents, another generation of "young turks" returned to Delhi in the seventies and established their presence with designs for pavilions at the 1972 International Trade Fair. Raj Rewal, who won the competition for the layout of the fair grounds and the Hall of Nations Complex, remembers that they all 'wore khadi kurts, kolhapuri chappals and had long hair'. This image of "India consciousness" took them far with the powerful officials who would try and sell it abroad in the Festivals of India, and would become their patrons in years to come.

As much as their work began to dominate the architectural scene of Delhi, it was also guided by the contextual nature of urban problems they had to tackle. Unlike Bombay, which had a land-form and a railway that could give direction to its growth, Delhi had no such controlling factors — Lutyens' plan could be stretched infinitely in three directions. The urban sprawl gave birth to many problems — the city lacked cohesion, there was an acute shortage of social spaces where people could remain anonymous but share experiences. The district and community centres, the local shopping centres and the group-housing colonies that were meant to reduce the overpowering scale of the city, became money-spinning opportunities for thousands of architects that set-up shop in Delhi. Only a few of them now see the larger picture that was painted by them over the last two decades.

Few, if any, of the commercial developments have succeeded in achieving a more lively urban environment, and on the housing front, the positive trends set by some architects have not been followed up. In designing the street-like community of the Yamuna Apartments, Ranjit Sabikhi and Ajoy Choudhary picked up themes of privacy and participation within a community, themes they had tackled earlier while designing the housing for the YMCA. Similar breakthroughs were made in the Tara Apartments, and M. N. Ashish Ganju's Press Enclave Housing explored the related theme of using courtyards in ways similar to patterns generated organically within more traditional communities like in the Walled city. Raj Rewal developed a network of streets and chowks in the Asiad Village housing, but its eventual use as an elite residential colony was a far cry from the sports village it was meant to be — instead of the energetic exhalations of youthful sportsmen and women, the painstakingly designed courts and streets are only brought alive by the dhuk-dhuk of a soulful stereo or the tense strains of a polite conversation.

A mega-polis like Delhi has to look closer at the problem of housing the lakhs of people that flood into its territory in search of livelihood. "This is the fabric that keeps steadily growing and constitutes the largest imposition on the environment. This had been, in almost all instances, uniformly dull and banal and is the direct result of the framework of controls imposed by town-planners," notes Ranjit Sabikhi. Whereas the planners are ready to neglect the enhancement of the residential parts of the city, they are more than willing to modify their regulations to serve powerful 'market-forces'.

These 'market-forces' continuously turn our urban centres of activity into playhouses for architects. The architects who plant their toy-blocks in the Central Business District of Connaught Place are certainly satisfying a need for exciting commercial and corporate environments, but the planners have not been able to control this development in any structured and coordinated fashion. Either that or the clients who commission these buildings are oblivious of the part their block plays in the total landscape of the area. The STC Building of Janpath looms like a metabolising monster from some Jurassic park, while the LIC Building nearby is crippled without the total interaction with the pedestrian that it was designed for. Even the DLF Centre on Sansad Marg, which reflects the Park Hotel in form as well as in its glass facade, looks impotent in its immodesty. Here again, the planners have to bear part of the blame — no building should have been built that close to the Jantar Mantar. Such a piece-meal development of important urban centres fails to provide any position directions in which Delhi can develop. These directions are being sought elsewhere and greater concentration on the refashioning of the urban fabric seems to be gaining ground. The Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) has sponsored three huge developments—the HUDCO Place on Khel Gaon Marg, the Bhikaji Cama Bazaar, and the strip-development of the Bhai Vir Singh Marg near Gole Market. Though the architectural character of the first — Jasbir Sawhney's "Noddy-land" — and the third — Romi Khosla's pseudo-postmodern kitsch — is extremely suspect, this kind of patronage from large corporations may encourage the exploration of alternative means of urban development, though none can substitute for the government's intervention, which is an imperative. Institutional support is also encouraging the discovery of alternatives to the energy and capital-intensive building technologies prevalent in our cities. The Development Alternatives' Headquarters building in the Qutub Institutional Area reflects their objectives with an inspiring use of low cost techniques and an evolved sense of traditional forms. Neeraj Manchanda's design asserts the validity of a humane architecture rooted in the desperate needs of the day. A more slick image is created by Ashok B. Lall in the Tata Energy Research Institute but it derives from suitable application of scientifically researched principles of energy-efficient building.

In the midst of this plethora of alternatives and imperatives the future of the city of Delhi is clouded by uncertainties. Only a concerted effort by planners, architects and citizens seems to offer a chance for bringing about a change in the quality of the urban environment. A lot needs to be done and it is seldom in the hands of these three groups to effect change — the ball repeatedly returns to the other side, the side where all the crucial decisions are made. It is in the control of the 'gormint' to check the degradation of the city, not to propagate the segregation and sprawl that were inherent to Lutyens' sadly enduring vision. Charles Correa offers an incisive perception in his book The New Landscape:
“Cities have always been unique indicators of civilization, all the way from Mohenjodaro to Athens to Persepolis to Peking to Isfahan to Rome. You can have great music created during rotten times, even painting, and poetry, but never great architecture and cities. Why is this? Primarily because building cities involves two essential conditions: firstly an economic system which concentrates power and decision-making; and secondly, at the centre of that decision-making, leaders with the vision, the taste, and the political will to deploy these resources intelligently. The first set of conditions prevails only too often — the second hardly ever. The combination is almost unique. Thus Akbar will always be Akbar. Not because of his military exploits (those have been bettered a hundred times over, both before and after his time). He will always be Akbar because, at the centre of that vortex of power, he exercised these qualities.”

Jagan Shah



The Urban Imagination
The City In:
Myths And Legends
This is the most classically "Rolex" of the rolex replica sale Sky-Dweller watches, in my opinion - well, next to the Rolex Sky-Dweller reference 326938, which is the 18k yellow gold version with rolex replica sale matching bracelet and "champagne dial." At the recent 2015 Farmers rolex replica sale Open PGA championship, Hublot announced 2013 US Open Champion Justin Rose as its newest ambassador. While Hublot is not new to the rolex replica sale concept of famous sports figures as ambassadors as this is replica watches uk the brand who counts Pel¨¦, Diego Maradona, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, Usain Bolt, and many more in its legion of ambassadors this meant the first time rolex replica sale Hublot had entered the lucrative sport of golf and got a champion to breitling replica sale join its ambassadors' ranks.