Whenever the thought of defining the city of Delhi arrives, its definition is bland and incomplete without expressing the idiosyncrasies of it architectural culture and heritage. Muhammad Taqi Meer, the famous Urdu pioneer of the 18th century tried defining the alleys of Delhi by stating that Delhi’s stree ts are not mere streets but are like an album of a painter, such is the Delhi-ism of Delhi, which is a peculiar paradigm for the globe.
Though majorly established as a medieval town, there are still findings and mentions referring to this elated city in the Indian mythological storytelling of Mahabharat comprised of Indraprastha as the capital of Pandavas. Moreover excavations at Bhorgarh and Ashokan edicts at Kailash proves the ancientness of the city. Delhi presents an amalgamation of 7 cities established during the medieval times and multiple cultural syncretism through the preceding millennium. These 7 cities of Lal Kot, Siri, Tughlakabad, Ferozabad, Dinpanah, Shahjahanabad, Kotla spread throughout nearly 1000 years together structurally forms the bedrock of architecture of Delhi.
These medieval times and umpteen number of fancy and flamboyant rulers spanning from Tughlaqs to Lodhis to Mughals added their patronage of architecture in different forms. Spanning from the prominence of Qutub Minar(1200 A.D.) to the citadel of Purana Qila(1545 A.D.) to the cherry Red Fort(1648 A.D.) and spiritualism of Jama Masjid(1656 A.D.) to the commercial streets of Chandni Chowk at the focus of Shahjahanabad, these present the horsts in the sinusoidal representation of Delhi architecture.
Though a definite amount of fuse and inspiration of Mughal architecture was experienced, but inception of modern architecture in the city was carried by Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens in the form of his constructions at Raisina hills and adjoining playgrounds. Yellow and Red sandstones with neoclassical architecture paid reverence to mughal architecture in the form of Domes and Chattris at the Viceroy’s estate (now Presidential estate). Moreover Lutyens tried attempting the amalgamation of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism which is evident from high rise lampposts, water fountains and lakes, sprawling lawns, sun shaded balconies, animal and plants floral designs and engravings on the walls.
Much of the Delhi’s delicacy of architecture is in continuing trend and even more prominent post independence Delhi which is often covered in the hindsights and shadows of such humongous designs of medieval and British era. Tuberculosis Association building, St. Stephen’s College, Rail Bhawan,Krishi Bhawan, Vigyan Bhawan, Udyog Bhawan etc provides a message of continuing architectural syncretic trends. The construct of Supreme Court(1954) at Bhagwandas road showcases strict distinctiveness with mughal or Lutyens styled architecture by presenting large square columned chattris.
Furthering the continuity in the architectural delicacy of the city of Delhi bears the imperialistic buildings of India International centre, Ford Foundation building and American International school. Moreover European rationalist architectural designs inspired by Le Corbusier of Chandigarh fame is reflected in the constructs of IIT Delhi administrative building and the JNU main buildings. Similarly on the lines of Rationalistic architecture of Portuguese, Akbar hotel (1965) was inspired from Chandigarh’s secretariat building.
French modernism is reflected in the cloth mill of Delhi(1970), Pragati Maidan exhibition complex (1972) , NCDC building and Connaught Circle. This spectral inspiration from varied sources presents the peculiar architectural culture of Delhi that is unique in its own sense.
Recently demised Indian architectural giant late Charles Correa continued the tradition by designing the LIC building at Rajiv Chowk and State Trading corporation building in NDMC. The Delhi Civic Centre in Central Delhi designed by Kuldip Singh showcases Delhi’s unique modernism. Moreover Chanakyapuri embassy enclave houses transnational architectural designs wherein the Belgian embassy is an alluring design visited by many. The 9-petaled Bahai’s house of worship as famously called the Lotus temple near Nehru place is a case sui generis in the architectural taste of Delhi. The Asiad village, Akshardham, Commonwealth village, Yamuna housing society, Vikas minar, Nehru place commercial centre and the Janakpuri district centre exhibits the traditional note on Delhi’s architectural symphony. Off lately the designs of Indian Habitat Centre near Lodhi road, DLF centre near Jantar Mantar, Amba Deep Towers near Rajiv Chowk, Signature tower in Gurgaon, DLF corporate park, Cyber Hub Office complex, Capital Court Delhi, ICFI building exposes Delhi changed architectural ideology and insignia which is moving more towards western neo-modern architecture and corporate styled materialistic constructs which keeps on its pace with the need of low carbon footprint, smart and intelligent buildings.
Hence, its probably not an overstatement to make by pronouncing Delhi as the cradle of amalgamated and inspired architecture which is probably a rarity amongst the capitals of the globe. Moreover, though evolving as per according to its need and desires the elated and joyful city of Delhi has never forgot its taste and delicacy of its splendid, jaw dropping and eternally inspiring, perennial architectural culturalism which is inherent in the air and population of this city of dreams and wonders of Delhi.