Strengthening The Lutyens – Baker Vision
New Delhi’s Central Vista, or Rajpath, the seat of power was designed in the early 20th century by Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker. Today, Ahmedabad-based veteran architect and urban planner Dr Bimal Patel is set to redesign and reimagine, what was once considered the icon of imperial governance in India.
WHAT IS THE CENTRAL IDEA OF THE DESIGN CONCEPT AND THE LONG TERM VISION FOR THE CENTRAL VISTA?
Herbert Baker once said – ‘The new capital is not merely the shrine of the glory of India, but it is to be the living center of administration’. After 17 years of construction, Delhi was inaugurated as the capital of Imperial India in February 1931. At the time, it was one of the largest such projects in the world, conceived and designed to reflect the spirit, progress and global importance of India. However, the Lutyens-Baker vision remained largely unfulfilled due to tumultuous world events that followed, and a changing local, political and economic context.
Over the next seventy years, a number of buildings were built on either side of Rajpath, to house various other offices and institutions of the government. However, lacking a guiding architectural vision, this resulted in an overall environment that is ad hoc and lacks a coherent identity and modern facilities. Our redevelopment master plan is a coherent overarching vision for the Central Vista which not only aims to build an icon for governance in India, but also to provide its government with modern, sustainable, efficient and effective facilities and to promote the transformation of its administrative culture. The Central Vista has always been and will continue to be a space that is symbolic of our country’s democracy and administrative rigor.
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THE CRITIC’S FEARS OVER THE FATE OF HERITAGE ZONE?
The Central Vista is always seen as an ensemble. While, the listed heritage buildings in the Central Vista will be appropriately refurbished, upgraded and meaningfully used, the new buildings will not mimic, but they will be designed to be aesthetically harmonious with the existing buildings.
The new facility of the Parliament House will work in conjunction with the present Parliament Building. It is proposed that the North and South blocks will house the National Museum; the Parliament House and its proposed new facility will work together as an ensemble; the National Archives will also gain an extension to meet the current demands of space and modern facilities. Although the heritage buildings retain their architectural majesty, they are under severe stress.
Many of them are in a state of disrepair, lack modern facilities and sufficient space, and are unable to serve their present function effectively. The landscape of the Central Vista – a heritage asset in itself – and the amenities along it are also inadequate for the many demands that are put on them. Over the years, many people and institutions have demanded that the Central Vista should be better administered, better developed and better maintained, and that its heritage should be protected. This project aims to achieve these objectives.
Dr. Bimal Patel, a Masters in Architecture, City Planning and a PhD in City and Regional Planning from University of California, Berkeley envisages the redevelopment of the regal Central Vista or Rajpath as strengthening the Lutyens – Baker vision. “The Master Plan proposes several new building along the Rajpath, whose scale, form and quality respects and completes Lutyens and Baker’s vision for the Central Vista. It is the completion of an unrealized plan.”
WHAT IS THE TIMELINE AND PHASEWISE DEVELOPMENT PLAN FOR THE COMPLETION OF THE REVAMP?
The ambitious timeline for this project suggests for it to be complete in 2024, as one of the objectives of the project is to showcase that a large complex project, such as this, can be executed proficiently and speedily in India.
The overall development will be phased to ensure that minimal disruption is caused to the workings of the ministries currently located in the Central Vista. The first phase comprises the Parliament Building, three Central Secretariat office buildings and refurbishment of the Central Vista Avenue. Work on the first phase is underway. The other components of the Master Plan will be subsequently phased over the next four years.
The Redevelopment Master Plan respects the axial and symmetric geometry, and the grandeur of the Central Vista. The plan proposes administrative buildings on either flanks of the avenue and has multiple objectives:
• It aims to modernize Parliament’s facilities
• Consolidate, rationalize and synergize government functioning
• Provide adequate facilities for the Vice President and Prime Minister
• Refurbish and better equip the Central Vista Avenue
• Strengthen cultural institutions in the Central Vista
• Commemorate 75 years of India’s independence.