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"Lutyens Bungalows to be replaced by Duplex Complexes to house, out of work ministers and their security guards."


I am very disturbed to read the above Headline in the papers to-day 20th Jan 1997, that a number of Lutyens bungalows of pre-independence days in the prestigious Lodhi Estate, are to be demolished to make way for housing former ministers, keeping in view their security needs.

I am disturbed and distressed for a number of reasons concerning the contents of this brief bit of news.

First, Lutynes was one of the world's greatest town planners and architects of this century. It is true that his architecture was mainly in the classical style, but it was, and still is first class architecture. Furthermore he skillfully adapted the style to Indian conditions and Indian building traditions in many ways. It is also true that much of what he did in the New Delhi- to- be was distinctly 'Colonial' but after his work was completed our struggle for independence came to its climax.

As a young architect, and as one who struggled to help in the struggle for independence, I shared in the criticism that this new spate of grand architectural town planning style was extravagant and lavish, and out of place, when thinking of, and working with, a population of which 80% was rural and often in distressing poverty.


However, the spacious wide tree-lined roads (a design factor we ignore in urban areas these days) and stately houses for government officials, surrounded by lawns, flower beds and flowering shrubs and trees, together with well kept open ceremonial and recreational spaces, all boded well for the visual future of our capital city. And now half a century later, Lutyens' grand buildings, planning and designing are of such a tremendous value in giving the capital a green and beautiful look for all to live in and work in or visit.


They act as lungs to the very polluted atmosphere of Delhi and must not be got rid of under any circumstances. Furthermore, from the beginning of Lutyens' conceptual planning (as we architects call it when we are putting on paper our thoughts and dreams) he had a great and deep respect for Old Delhi, and its many historical architectural treasures and never would he have dreamed of removing or destroying or covering over, even ruins of our great ancient Indian architectural heritage.

Even now, if I am staying in a Kerala house, and have to go to the various government Bhavans' in Delhi, for meetings and conferences. I invariably walk, in order to enjoy these wide tree-shaded avenues with glimpses through wide gate ways, across lawns and flowers, to fine, dignified, beautiful Lutyens' Bungalows. And now, it would seem that it is intended to demolish some of these fine buildings, and put in their place as many duplex complexes as the planners can squeeze on to the evacuated Bounds. To me it seems absolutely wanton, and I would even say 'criminal stupidity' and 'wickedness', even to think of such vandalism.


Another aspect to be seriously considered, preferably before the dastardly act, rather than after it, is that the current cost of building construction is so high, that to destroy, good strong solid buildings in order to replace them with modern horrors at comparative astronomical cost is sensible or not. If, as it is claimed, though I dispute the allegation, no new government bungalows have been built since Independence, it is stated that we need a lot of them to house these political Down-and-Outs, instead of cluttering up this prestigious Lodhi Estate with "the Beat unemployed" in duplex complexes why not recycle our slums? I have plans to show how this can be or should be done, and we could allot part of these recycled areas to these destitute ex-ministers and their protectors?


It also seems that now a days we consider it more important, (or shall we say, the best way) to house these unemployed ones by destroying good, beautiful, solid buildings and getting rid of trees and open spaces first.


I might add that during my career here in India, I have from time to time made good use of such fine old buildings for a variety of purposes, libraries, schools, colleges, health centers and psychiatric hospitals and so on! Many of these 'bungalows' have vast high ceiling rooms and I have even built within one such drawing room a whole two-storied modern flat! Couldn't these poor, ministers be content with something like that?


I do therefore humbly beg of all who are concerned with this scheme of destruction, the Minister for Urban Development, Finance Ministry, the CPWD chief architect, the P.M.O and last and by no means last, our beloved and admired Lok Sabha Speaker, to reconsider the whole project and find a more acceptable way of housing our ex-ministers.