Land Crisis Puts Pressure on Lutyens’ Housing Quarter in New Delhi

International
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
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A house in New Delhi's Lutyens Bungalow Zone. (Courtesy World Monument Fund)

A house in New Delhi’s Lutyens Bungalow Zone. (Courtesy World Monument Fund)

Indian officials have proposed that high-rises be built on the site of Edwin Lutyens-designed bungalows dating from the 1920s and 1930s, threatening Delhi’s colonial era architecture, according to the Guardian. Lutyens’ Delhi, a 3,000-acre zone containing the Mughal Garden at Rashtrapati Bhavan, has endured monsoons, riots, and acid rain, but now many of the area’s government buildings, parks, and homes have met a new menace: a scheme to loosen planning limitations to permit construction of high-rise structures.

A house in New Delhi's Lutyens Bungalow Zone. (Courtesy World Monument Fund)

A house in New Delhi’s Lutyens Bungalow Zone. (Courtesy World Monument Fund)

The early twentieth-century bungalows were built for civil servants who governed millions of Indians under the British Raj. The British relocated India’s capital from Calcutta to Delhi, the historic metropolis of the Mughal emperors, and worked with Indian architects under Edwin Landseer Lutyens to design 1,000 neo-classical bungalows surrounded by large gardens.

A protected zone, expanded in 1988 and 2003, comprises some of the country’s most precious land. Conservationists assert that the zone is at risk and since it occupies less than two-percent of Delhi, the high-rises should go elsewhere. Adversaries suggest that preserving Lutyen’s Delhi would be erroneous when millions sleep in the city’s crowded slums.

Writer and historian Sohail Hashmi point outs that imperialists planned the bungalows to emphasize authority. Hashmi’s solution is to preserve one street within Lutyens’ Delhi to demonstrate what it looked like and to build new homes on the remaining land. Hashmi also recognizes that the bungalows have become symbols of power. In fact, particular properties in Lutyens’ Delhi are worth astonishing amounts of money. One such edifice, the president’s official residence that was built to accommodate 100 mid-ranking military officers, has a projected value of £600 million.

Conservationists hope UNESCO will give the area world heritage site status, consequently making major alterations nearly impossible.

Aerial view of a portion of Lutyens' Delhi showing its unique street grid. (Courtesy Here Maps)

Aerial view of a portion of Lutyens’ Delhi showing its unique street grid. (Courtesy Here Maps)

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