New Delhi's Imperial Core

Delhi has been, for centuries, a major centre of power. Like the numerous dynasties that had ruled Delhi over the years, the British realized the need to build their own city here, New Delhi. The India Office in London appointed two architects to design New Delhi - Edwin Landseer Lutyens and Herbert Baker.

Lutyens’ vision was to plan a city on lines similar to other great capitals of the world, with broad, long avenues flanked by sprawling lawns, impressive monuments punctuating the avenue, and the symbolic seat of power at the end. Lutyens found the perfect geographical location in the low Raisina Hill, west of Dinpanah (Purana Qila).

This hill became the focus of Lutyens’ and Baker’s plans for the new city. New Delhi was developed on a geometric design - mainly the use of hexagons and triangles - and had as its core the Central Vista.

The Central Vista ensemble has the main axis Rajpath (originally called Kingsway) that runs east-west, radiating from the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Raisina Hill, flanked by the secretariat buildings (North Block & South Block) and ends in the Princes’ Park which has the palaces of the erstwhile princely states in India. 

Vijay Chowk marks the beginning of Rajpath and forms a cross axis at the foot of Raisina Hill. The road perpendicular to Rajpath at this point, leads to the Parliament House towards the North. Rajpath sweeps eastward to a hexagonal round–about that has the India Gate and Canopy. Another cross axis, the Janpath meets the Rajpath at the midpoint between the Secretariats and Princes’ Place.

Map of the Central Vista

Rashtrapati Bhavan (1927)

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

The Rashtrapati Bhavan or the ‘President’s House' or the ‘Presidential Palace’, situated on Raisina Hill, was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens for the residence of the Viceroy and Governor General of India, until 1950. It is now the residence of the President of India. This structure is a classical design that cohesively blended Western and Indian styles.

It is generally acknowledged as the World’s largest residential complex ever built for the Head of any Country. It has more than 300 rooms, 37 salons, 74 lobbies, 18 staircases and 37 fountains.

Layout of the Rashtrapati Bhavan

LAYOUT:  Rashtrapati Bhavan was designed around a massive square with numerous courtyards and open areas within.

ELEVATION: It is a two storey building, the ground floor having monumental perforations. A grand colonnade of cream sandstone links sections of solid cream wall on the upper levels.

ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES:

On the order of the then Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, many Indian elements were incorporated with Imperial architecture:  dome, carved stone elephants, metallic cobras around a fountain in the south court, small domed pavilions (chhatris), chhajjas and elegant floral-carved stone jalis. Interestingly, Lutyens used no steel in construction of this structure.

Lutyens designed another major component of the Rashtrapati Bhavan Estate: the Mughal Gardens covering 13 acres with more than 250 varieties of roses, and probably the world’s largest collection of marigold species, besides other flowers.

Colonnade
Carved stone jalis
The bronze dome: the dome is twice the height of the building

Secretariat Building - North and South Block (1930s)

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

While Lutyens was designing the Government House, Herbert Baker was working on the design of the Secretariat buildings. These buildings, two identical blocks facing each other across King’s Way, were to house (and still do) important ministries of the government.

Differences arose between Baker and Lutyens regarding the placement of the Secretariat and Government House. Despite that, however, Baker and Lutyens managed to create a harmonious set of buildings.

Secretariat Building, 1999
Classical in style, each block has four floors and is crowned by an imposing central baroque dome. 

LAYOUT AND ELEVATION:

The North and South Blocks sit on a plinth about 30 ft above the ground, covering an area of 1200 feet x 1300 feet.The buildings are arranged to form two squares. The two blocks are connected by an underground passage (still in use).

ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES:

The two buildings of the Secretariat are made of buff and red sandstone and is a combination of European and indigenous architectural elements. The semi-circular arches, the Corinthian columns, and the baroque dome are unmistakably western; the carved elephants and lotuses, red sandstone jalis, chhajjas, and the chhatris on the terraces are just as obviously Indian.

The Secretariat Buildings have impressive and majestic interiors.The North Block contains some very well preserved paintings depicting themes like justice, war and peace. The South Block has paintings of different cities of the country and the emblems of old kingdoms.

 Baroque dome
Corinthian columns
Outside each block are two sandstone columns These, known as the Columns of Dominion, were ceremonial gifts to India from the colonies of Britain which had dominion status.
Ashokan capital surmounted by a globe with a bronze ship in sail symbolizing Britain’s maritime traditions
Base of one of the coulmn with emblem of a dominion

India Gate (1931)

India Gate and the India Gate Canopy

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

India Gate was initially planned to symbolize the gateway of Delhi for the British Leaders entering the palatial grounds of the Viceroy’s Palace. During World War I a large number of Indian soldiers died in the battle & the need for a War Memorial was felt. The foundation stone of the structure was laid in 1921 by the Duke of Connaught and it was completed in the year 1931.

Over the decades, this has come to be a memorial for Indian soldiers in other wars as well, including the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 and 1999. This is in addition to the names of soldiers awarded the Param Vir Chakra. In 1970, an eternal flame was installed underneath this arch in honour of the martyred soldiers. The shrine is known as the Amar Jawan Jyoti (literally, ‘flame of the immortal warrior’)

Inscriptions on the surface of the gateway

LAYOUT: It is built in the shape of a huge gateway mounted on a low red sandstone base. India Gate is an imitation of the Mughal Style of creating massive and impressive gateways situated at the peripherals of the Palace grounds.

Elevation: The roof of the arch rises in stages to a huge cornice, beneath which are inscribed Imperial suns. Above on both sides is inscribed INDIA. The 42.35m arch has a 10 m wide main opening with smaller openings on the sides. A flame is constantly lit in the center of the arch.

ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES:

Topping the arch is a shallow dome with a bowl to be filled with burning oil on anniversaries to commemorate martyrs. A similar structure was installed under the arch afterwards as an eternal flame. This is in form of a plain square shrine of black marble atop a stepped platform of red sandstone: The Amar Jawan Jyoti, or the flame of the immortal soldier.

Amar Jawan Jyoti, India Gate,1999
India Gate Canopy, 1999:  Standing behind India gate is an empty canopy constructed in sandstone, designed by Lutyens. Until the Independence of India in 1947 it contained the statue of King George V.

Hyderabad House (1926)

Hyderabad House, 1999

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

Of all the palaces that comprise Princes’ Park, by far the most splendid and the biggest was the Hyderabad House, that Sir Edwin Lutyens designed for Osman Ali Khan, the Nizam of Hyderabad

After the death of Osman Ali Khan, his sons gifted the palace to the Indian government in 1947. Since then, Hyderabad House has been a Government of India property, used for important government events such as press conferences, banquets, and meetings.

LAYOUT AND ELEVATION:

Layout: The plan is a butterfly shape with a central domed entrance hall with symmetrical wings radiating at 55 degrees. The interior is richly decorated.It has 36 rooms, four of which have now been converted into dining rooms. Hyderabad House also boasted of a zenana — quarters for women in purdah.

Elevation: The facade of the building is articulated by arcaded verandahs, prominent cornices and dholpur stone jallis.

ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES: The palace is an attractive blend of European and Indian architecture: the semi-circular arches, unornamented columns, shallow urns and obelisks adorning the façade are distinctly western. On the other hand, the dome and the carved sandstone jalis of the façade represent the Indo architectural influence.
Obelisks and two shallow urns adorning the façade
French window
Carved sandstone jalis

Baroda House (1936)

Baroda House, 1999 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, it was built for the Maharaja of Baroda. The Gaekwad of Baroda, wanted his palace  to be Anglo Saxon in style and so Lutyens has put in very few markedly Indian architectural elements.

Baroda House today houses the headquarters of the Northern Railway.

LAYOUT: Baroda House is Anglo-Saxon in aspect and finishes, and here the butterfly plan is cut in two in the center. It has wings set at an angle of 57 degrees, a concave central porch and a circular salon. There are magnificent staircases leading to arcaded verandahs, loggias and courtyards.

Elevation: The building is of buff sandstone topped by a dome inspired from Sanchi stupa.

French windows with semi-circular arches and the dome.
European styled carved screen

ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES:

While the dome of Baroda House echoes the Sanchi Stupa, the rest of the palace is obviously Anglo-Saxon. It has large French windows with semi-circular arches; a portico; and unornamented Doric columns. The carved screens of the walls surrounding the terraces are European in style than the indigenous ornate jaali screens.

Patiala House (1938)

Patiala House, 1999                                                                                                                                                                            

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

 It was originally the palace of the Maharaja of Patiala. Patiala House in March 1997 was converted to become one of three court complexes in the city, and the criminal courts from Parliament Street were shifted here.

LAYOUT:

A double storeyed building, the central portion is emphasized with a domed pavilion on the terrace and a projecting porch. Over the upper storey there is a projecting chajja running the entire length of the building.

A dome joins the two wings of 'Lutyens's Butterfly Plan'.

ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES:

The palace is painted cream, with sections of buff sandstone left bare to highlight balconies, parapets, and carved ventilator screens. An interesting feature is the distinctly Indian touch provided by a square, domed pavilion on the roof. With a chhajja and four smaller pavilions clustered around it.

Central square domed pavilion surrounded by four smaller pavilion 

Jaipur House (1936)

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

Designed by C.G. Blomfield and F.B. Blomfield in 1936 for the Maharaja of Jaipur. Like the Lutyens-designed palaces this too is a ‘butterfly plan’. Built mainly of buff sandstone, it displays distinct influences of the Art Deco & traditional Indian styles.

Jaipur House is today the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA), inaugurated in 1954. The NGMA has a large display of art at present – primarily paintings, though there are also sculptures and some installation art – covering approximately 150 years of art in India.

Art Deco style 

LAYOUT: The butterfly shaped building has a central dome with two symmetrical wings radiating from the central court. Two similar wings radiate towards the back facing the garden. The facade of this palace is marked by two levels of small, vertical, slit like windows.

Elevation: The building is seated on a plinth with bands of red sandstone.A continuous chajja in red sandstone caps the entire facade.

Jaipur House, now the National Gallery of Modern Art
Dado patterned with strips of red sandstone 
Dome of the Jaipur House

ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES:

The dome of the Jaipur House resembles the one on Rashtrapati Bhavan. A chhajja of red sandstone runs continuously below the roof.

The most distinct feature are multiple inlaid to form a patterned dado and Rajput columns  strips of red sandstone form arches openings along the façade.

Bikaner House (1939)

Bikaner House, 1999                                                                                                                         

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: 

Sir Edwin Lutyens designed this palace in 1939, for Ganga Singh, the Maharaja of Bikaner. Bikaner House is now the office of Rajasthan Tourism.

LAYOUT:

Bikaner House is a princely house spread over an 8 acre plot in Lutyens’ Delhi. It follows the geometry of a plot and is a half butterfly plan

SPECIAL ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES: Some of the features include the half butterfly plan, semi-circular arches, mouldings and canopies .

National Stadium (1933)

National Stadium 1999                                                                                                                                                                        

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

The stadium was built in 1933 as a gift for Delhi from the Maharaja of Bhavnagar, it was originally multipurpose stadium and named The Irwin Amphitheater. It was designed by R.T. Russel. In 1951 just before the Asian Games was hosted, it was renamed the National Stadium. In 2002, it was re-named the Dhyan Chand National Stadium, in honor of Major Dhyan Chand Singh (1905–1979), one of the world’s finest hockey players.

LAYOUT: The stadium is almost circular in plan and certain portions of the seating area have now been roofed.

ELEVATION: The entrance to the brick building is emphasized by four small canopies along the terrace parapet.

ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES:

The building is a combination of western and Indian architectural styles. Prominent among the Indian elements are the chhajjas and the chhatris that stand above the arches. The chhatris, which look fairly out of place, are believed to have been suggested by Lady Willingdon, the Vicereine when the stadium was being constructed.

Parliament House (1927)

With the Morley-Minto reforms of 1919, Indian representation in the Viceroy’s council suddenly rose. With it arose the need to construct a building large enough to accommodate the hundreds of members who would meet under one roof. What resulted was the Council House, today known as Sansad Bhavan or Parliament House.

LAYOUT AND ELEVATION: Parliament House is a circular building, ringed on the outside by a colonnaded verandah. The edifice, mainly of buff sandstone, sits on a red sandstone platform and sprawls over six acres. It is 560 ft in diameter. Parliament House consists of a central hall topped by a dome and three semi-circular chambers that are surrounded by garden courts. The central chambers are surrounded by offices and service rooms.

SPECIAL ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES: As in the case of the Secretariat, at Parliament House too Baker used a combination of western and Indian architectural forms.

The dome, the semi-circular arched windows, and the towering columns of the verandahs surrounding the three chambers on two floors, are European. On the other hand, the geometric patterns that comprise the jalis of the boundary wall and the parapets echo Indo-Islamic architecture. The capitals of the pillars supporting the portico roof are also very Indian.

Cathedral Church of Redemption (1930)

Cathedral Church of Redemption

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND:

In the early 1900s, a number of British officers and bureaucrats who were living in the area that now comprises the heart of New Delhi, had no designated place of worship within the new city for Anglican services. All the church services were held at Alexandra Place (now Gole Dak Khana).

Revd. T.R. Dixon, the chaplain at Delhi, put forward a request for a more permanent (and larger) church.

The design of Henry Alexander Medd was approved by Lutyens in 1925. 

The Church of Redemption was consecrated and opened its doors on January 18, 1931. In April 1947, the church was elevated to the rank of a cathedral, the seat of the new Diocese of Delhi, part of the Church of North India (CNI).

LAYOUT: The cathedral is modeled on Venice’s Palladio Church and London’s Hampstead. It is approx. 53m x 37m and is built on a cross plan with the entry on the west and the altar to the east

ELEVATION: It has four floors with a large dome resting atop an octagonal drum, with sloping roofs spreading out to form a typical cruciform church. The dome also accomodates the bell. On each side of the central tower is a pedimented window.

Interior of the Cathedral

SPECIAL ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES:

It has a striking external appearance, with a large dome resting atop an octagonal drum, with sloping roofs spreading out to form a typical cruciform church.

Inside, too, the church is largely buff sandstone, with ornate Corinthian columns forming the bulk of the decoration. The high altar is of polished dark wood; just before the altar, facing the pews, is a stone plaque dedicated to Henry Alexander Nesbitt Medd.

Among the other interesting historic objects in the church are a fine old organ and a silver cross donated by Lord Irwin. The stained glass window in the tiny chapel on the right of the high altar is a recent addition.

Organ donated by Lord Irwin
 Dome resting atop an octagonal drum

LATER ADDITIONS TO THE IMPERIAL CORE OF 

NEW DELHI

National Museum (1949)

The National Museum contains over 2,00,000 exhibits, ranging across a period of 5,000 years.

The official inauguration of the museum was held on 15 August, 1949, under the aegis of the then Governor- General of India, C.Rajagopalachari. The buff sandstone building is arranged in the form of a series of galleries, spreading out on three sides of a central, circular well-like space.

Three floors of galleries hold an extensive collection of exhibits: a range of ancient Indian sculpture, manuscripts, jewellery, medieval art, tribal art, Central Asian artefacts, pre-Columbian and western art, weaponry, musical instruments, coins, etc. The museum also holds special temporary exhibitions, often with priceless exhibits being brought in from international museums.

Ministry of External A�ffairs

Ministry of External Affairs

Also called Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan, it was designed to be in harmony with its neighbouring Lutyens’ buildings and the city’s environment. It marks a changing trend in construction practices in that it is the first government building with a LEEDS Green Building Certification.The stone clad building’s envelope is made of composite brick and stone masonry with insulation cavity.

The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts: IGNCA (1987)

The Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts 

The IGNCA was set up in 1987, as an autonomous body under the Ministry of Culture. It has since devoted itself to the preservation and propagation of the arts.

National Archives (1999)

 The National Archives                                                                                                      

Earlier named the Imperial Record Office, has a distinct facade. Its Neo Classical elements  are balanced in their proportions, and its grand verandah features columns of the Delhi Order.

New  wings have been added to the original structure designed by Lutyens. These later additions  are placed away from the plot edges and are in strong contrast to the earlier structure.

Credits: Story

All material for this exhibit has been taken from INTACH Delhi Chapter's publications.
CONVENOR — A G Krishna Menon
CO-CONVENOR — Swapna Liddle
PROJECT CONSULTANT — Annabel Lopez
PROJECT TEAM — Abhiram Sharma, Arpita Ghatak, Niharika Singh, Tanya Singh, Aditya Mehta, Deb Banerji, Pulkit Taneja

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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