Lutyen’s design of Viceroy’s Palace

The British Empire placed an impressive focal point in need on the Indian subcontinent in order to protect its colonial possessions. The new palace of the Viceroy of India in the Imperial city would be an impressive symbol of the actual power structure for the partly subject and partly independent princely fiefdoms of the more than 500 Indian maharajas. Edward Lutyens acquired the approval of the British King and was given the sole responsibility for the construction of the palace in Delhi.
The empire of King George V was a lot greater and powerful than that of Queen Victoria, hence the Viceroy’s House design had to be in parallel at least to the Buckingham Palace. Hence Lutyens constructed the façade of Viceroy’s House to be the same length in 630 feet as the façade of the Buckingham Palace.

The architect took reference of not only the architectural models of Rome, but also other Western architecture such as the St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the Capital of Washington and the Church of St Nicolas in Potsdam in order to design the Viceroy’s House. The references taken by Lutyens were strict in Neo Classical style. Therefore, Viceroy’s House’s plan was designed similarly to the elevation of St Nicholas’ Church. The Church. The design is composed of a dome on a tall tambour along Schinkel’s model, bordered by Indo- Islamic pavilions which were connected together by a Neo-Palladian plinth.
Lutyens questioned the architectural style for the Viceroy’s House and developed a design solution in the style of St Peter’s and Bernini’s colonnades located in Rome. There were two columns standing at the rounded corners of the square at each ends of the palace. At the end of each curves of the palace stand a cathedral and the Viceroy’s Secretariat. Lutyen employed the H shape ground plan into the early development stage of Viceroy’s House with a dome in the center of Durbar Hall. Addition to this design option, Lutyens drew another H shaped ground plan with an inner court yard in order to give solutions to lighting of office and reception area of the building. In addition to this, he placed pillars along the four pavilions on the first upper level.

Lutyens used Villa Rotonda near Vicenza as a reference to construct the Viceroy’s House. He had been utilizing the Palladio as reference as it was the architect’s greatest models. However, it was not spatially efficient to accommodate living and office space into such compact building. When the palace was accepted and built, in terms of its spatial order, it was not inferior to Buckingham Palace in London and even exceeded the gross area.

The architectural and functional elements were amended at the final stage of plan development along Lutyens’ preferred style of geometric code. Through this, greater scale of road surfaces invades the entire view. The intention was on the ceremonial significance of the movement towards the center of imperial power within the House.

The Viceroy’s House incorporates and merges the Neo Classical and Indian formal elements successfully. The Buddhist stupa at Sanchi was placed as a simple dome on the Durbar Hall of the house and blended in harmoniously with the surrounding design. The marble inlay work inside the Hall may have originated from Mughal architecture. The chattris which is a stone pavilion, was placed within the hall and was able to unify itself with the dome as well. The monumental stone walls placed in the furthest reaches of the administrative zone with the Buddhist style generated the atmosphere of sanctity.

1. Andreas Volwahsen, Imperial Delhi: The British Capital of the Indian Empire (Munich: Prestel, 2002).

2. Evenson, Norma. The Indian metropolis: a view toward the West. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989.

3. Humphreys, S. C., and Rudolf G. Wagner. Modernity’s classics. Berlin: Springer, 2013.

4.Vale, Lawrence J. Architecture, Power and National Identity. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992.

1 Comment on “Lutyen’s design of Viceroy’s Palace

  1. It is interesting to know that the architect had a lot of influence from the British colonialism and took references to a lot of Roman and Western models like Villa Rotunda. The fact that the architect has also incorporated Indian formal elements has acknowledged his respect to his nation’s traditional culture. This somehow reminds me of my case on Kyoto Tower, where the architect had the struggle to introduce western modernist element into the thousands year old city. What kind of difficulties and challenges the architect of Viceroy;s palace has to go through in order to show respect to both the colonial power and its own authentic culture in such important architecture with strong symbolism of power?

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