So, who built CP? It wasn’t Lutyens : The Tribune India

So, who built CP? It wasn’t Lutyens

‘Lutyens’ Delhi’ is a term used expansively to include works of all architects who helped give shape to the new capital, New Delhi, in 1930s. Most remain unknown, forgotten

So, who built CP? It wasn’t Lutyens

Vivek Shukla

It’s more than a century since King George V announced at the Delhi Durbar on December 11, 1911, that India’s capital would be transferred from Calcutta to a new city to be built near the ancient city of Dilli. And work started for the new capital.  
Rashtrapati Bhavan (originally the Viceroy’s residence), the Secretariat buildings (North and South Block), and Connaught Place remain landmarks, but those who designed these have no road or service lane named after them. Apart from Sir Edwin Lutyens and to some extent Sir Herbert Baker, not much is either known or written about the many other architects responsible for the making of New Delhi. 
Connaught Place was the creation of Robert Tor Russell. Originally, it was to be designed by WH Nicholls, the Chief Architect to the Government of India. He planned a central plaza based on the European Renaissance and the classical style. However, Nicholls left India in 1917, and with Lutyens and Baker busy working on the larger buildings, it was Russell, Chief Architect with the Public Works Department, who eventually designed Connaught Place. The area was a ridge covered with kikar trees and inhabited by jackals and wild pigs, visited by residents of Kashmiri Gate and Civil Lines areas during the weekends for partridge hunting.
Russell designed CP as double storeyed: commercial establishments on the ground floor and the residential area on the first. He created the Inner Circle, Middle Circle and the Outer Circle and seven radial roads in CP.  There were proposals to join the blocks from above, employing archways, with radial roads below. He, however, put his foot down and the circle was broken up to give it a grander scale.
According to Deepak Mehta, a noted Delhi architect, “When the construction of CP was on, the government planned to have the New Delhi Railway Station inside the Central Park. Russell rejected the idea as impractical. Later, he himself suggested the nearby Paharganj area for the station. He wanted a park where shoppers and others could relax in the middle of CP.”
He also designed the Eastern and Western Courts, Teen Murti House, Safdarjung Airport, National Stadium and over 4,000 government houses in areas like Lodhi Road. A very reticent person, Russell left for England in the mid-1940s and started his private practice. He passed away in the ’70s.
Henry Medd was also a master architect. He was barely 23 when he joined Lutyens’ office. Later, he worked under the watchful eyes of Sir Baker from 1919-31. He was the Chief Architect to the Government of India from 1939-47.
Admittedly, Medd did not design great buildings of the capital, but his class is evident in the imposing Cathedral Church of the Redemption and the Sacred Heart Cathedral. He is also said to have helped Baker a great deal in finalising the finer details of Parliament House and North and South Blocks.
The Cathedral Church is located to the north of Jaipur Column at a shouting distance from Parliament House. Henry Medd belonged to the Lutyens’ school of architecture, which is reflected in the design of the Anglican church. Though the exterior is ordinary, with red sandstone roofing, the interior has small recessed openings that filter sunlight.
Like Russell and Medd, Walter George too did not get his due. It was he who designed Regal Cinema, Sujan Singh Park and St Stephen’s College buildings. Regal was the first picture hall of New Delhi, perhaps the first with balcony space. Regal Cinema is supported by a series of pillars. The space between each contains a private box.
He also designed Hotel Ambassador, which was opened in 1945, and was responsible for establishing the first training facility for architects in North India. The Department of Architecture came into existence as part of the Delhi Polytechnic in 1942. Later, it became the School of Planning and Architecture.
And, has anybody heard of E Montague Thomas? He designed the first modern building of New Delhi after it became the capital — the grand Delhi Legislative Assembly. It has a long front line and two lateral structures. The central doorway communicated with the central chamber. There are two minarets at each end and small towers decorate the corners with placid domes. 
Says Sanjay Khanna, director of Kailash Nath Projects and whose grandfather, Kailash Nath, built the first high rise of CP, Himalaya House, “After transfer of the capital to Delhi, the temporary Secretariat building was constructed in a few months’ time in 1912 where Chandrawal village stood. The semi-circular Secretariat building had the privilege of housing the central legislature from 1913 to 1926.”
The Rowlatt Bill was discussed here in 1919, and Mahatma Gandhi was one of the visitors. However, once the Parliament building was raised, the Assembly Hall got ignored. It was only after Delhi got the partial-state status in 1952 that it saw some activity again.
Anyway, will any lane be named after such great architects of New Delhi?
The writer is based in New Delhi

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