Traditional Topoi and Geometric Forms of Lutyens’ designs

Seen across the Imperial Delhi, wealth of forms and symbols spread throughout the city, it raises the question of whether the architects were merely playing with the decorative traditional topoi as well as fashionable geometric shapes. All of Indian symbolic forms are generally placed specifically with a comprehensible and purposeful way. For example, the Nandi stands in the Viceroy’s Palace, the elephants who are the cousins of clouds, were placed there in order to give rain and symbolic support to the British Empire. Moreover, the Naga snakes acts as the watchers of the life giving element of water, while the lotus flower indicates universal power. Each of these Indian traditional symbols were used to represent the British Raj.

However other than these symbols, it is difficult to comprehend the purpose of the Buddhist stupa forms the dome at the Durbar Hall of Viceroy’s House and why the marble stone walls were built in the same way as the Buddhist shrine. Although the architect made no comment on this intention, it is assumable that for Lutyens, the form of stupa was an appealing presentation for the unconventional design of a dome. Additionally, the Buddhist stone walls were selected for the same purpose and since it was enlarged to an imperial scale, it generated the perfect motif for the impressive enclosure of the administrative area.

In Lutyens’ architecture and urban planning, it raises another question on whether the frequent integration of hexagonal and triangular form derive purely from an impulsive manner or from a convincing historical reason. Several theories have been made that the appearance of such geometrical forms in Lutyens’ designs, could have been influenced by the architects private and professional life in London who was constantly exposed to the theories of the socially predominant Freemasons. Another theory was claimed that his wife, who was sympathetic to the theosophical society may have influenced him allowing Lutyen to become familiar with the geometry and symbols of Hinduism. Lastly, the architect may have purely been inspired by Mughal elements.

Geometric plans

geometrical plans

Triangle, rectangle, pentagon, hexagon, etc. forms appear frequently as ground plan shapes. What inspired Lutyens to place a pentagonal lotus flower in the Durbar Hall? The intention is found in the architect’s experimental pleasure in the fondness for the uniqueness of the geometries.


Andreas Volwahsen, Imperial Delhi: The British Capital of the Indian Empire (Munich: Prestel, 2002), 216

Final Report of the Delhi Town Planning Committee regarding the selected site, Delhi 1913, p.6.

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