1931 January: 'New Delhi, the individual buildings' by Robert Byron
Robert Byron performs a detailed criticism of works of Lutyens and Baker in New Delhi, first published January 1931
In approaching the main buildings of the city from the standpoint, not of their whole general effect, but of their character as separate entities, the architects’ official statement of their aims is worth considering. These aims have been: “to express, within the limits of the medium and the powers of its users, the ideal and fact of British rule in India, of which New Delhi must ever be the monument.” It is a sound canon of aesthetics that architecture, above the other arts, should express ideals and facts of this kind. It can do so by two methods; either by writing the ideals and facts in ornament, in crowns, scutcheons, symbolic figures, and their like; or by translating the human spirit, which makes them possible, into architectural form.
In the respective works of Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Edwin Lutyens these methods are clearly differentiated. And the city, regarded in the light of objective criticism, is divided between the works of a lesser and a greater architect. That this fact does not obtrude itself on the visitor’s first impression is due to the fundamental conditions of material and lay-out laid down by the greater architect. I have tried in Part I to give some idea of this first impression. For only while holding in mind its essential beauty can the virtues and faults of the separate buildings be justly assessed.
THE MEMORIAL ARCH.
The monumental Roman arch can be a futile object, particularly when it happens to be Roman. Here, Sir Edwin Lutyens’s adaptation of it supplies a definite need. An axis so spacious as the King’s Way, leading to an architectural complex of such size and splendour as the Viceroy’s House and the Secretariats, demands an ostentatious beginning. The height of the arch is 138 ft. ; but this is increased optically by the system of steps on the roof and the utter flatness of the surrounding plain. Its chief character derives from the fact that the arch of the main opening, although 75 ft. high, springs from a point less than half way up the whole building; so that the arch, as an arch, has something to support, and is therefore invested with a kind of life, a quality which the Arc de Triomphe, for example, lacks. Close above the key-stone of the archway runs a decorative band of rayed suns, carved flat, but with sufficient emphasis to break the hard line of shadow from the cornice above.
The cornice is thin and prominent- unusually so for a monument of this kind. But it is precisely this shelf-like quality which brings it into harmonious relation with the mass of masonry, 40 ft. high, above it. This mass takes the form of three irregular steps, the topmost and deepest of which has its narrow ends interrupted by heavy, concave recesses. On top of this rests a small fiat dome, finished with a convex eye, slightly moulded. This dome pays a compliment of gentle imitation to that of the Viceroy’s House, two miles off. But its eventual function will be to emit a huge panache of memorial smoke, which the Public Works Department, slightly despairing, hope to achieve by means of gas and electric fans. On either side of the topmost step will be incised the words-
MCM INDIA MCM
The whole arch stands on a low red base. The sides are pierced by two lesser openings, each 54 It. high, and decorated with stone pineapples above the doorways at the bottom.
THE GREAT PLACE.
Excepting the Viceroy’s dome, the six fountains by Sir Edwin Lutyens are the most beautiful features of the city. Apart from their clean-dressed rhubarb stone, their character is purely and almost surprisingly European. The perfection of their general proportions, and the superbly acted function of each smallest moulding, can only be rivalled in the Renascence buildings of Italy. A part of their genius lies in the placing of the water exactly flush with the parapets of the basins, so that the basins appear, not as basins, but as frames to a mirror. Seen from the road level, their red ramparts, the height of a man, decorate the Great Place on every side, and their obelisks complete every view. But they were primarily designed to be looked down upon. And it is from the Secretariats that their beauty of shape, given definition by two heavy pieces of masonry where the con joining basins begin to decrease their width, can best be appreciated. At present the jets of water from the upper saucers are only strong enough to wet half the obelisks above them; from which results a sharp and rather ugly division of colour. But it is hoped that this will be remedied.
Sir Edwin Lutyens has also been responsible for the curving “Buddhist railings,” again of red stone, which frame the ends of the Great Place. This use of stone, the placing, between flat balusters, of thin convex blocks in length equal to the balusters’ width, and permitting horizontal glimpses of daylight, produces the effect of a strawberry basket, and strikes the newcomer as rather eccentric. But it was nevertheless one of the outstanding features of Buddhist building during the early part of the first Christian millennium, and is found at Buddh Gaya, Sanchi, and Anaradjpura in Ceylon. Sir Edwin has lifted the railings upon a heavy base, furnished on the inside with a circular stone seat, and has flanked them, where intersected by roads, with square, lantern-bearing pillars. But the motive is an ugly one in the original, and whether its present adjuncts succeed in making it palatable is hard to decide. On the other hand, it provides precisely what the situation demands : the effect, not of a wall, but of a screen. Perhaps its chief merit is that it has made it possible to avoid the inevitable alternative, an adaptation of Mogul piercing on a large scale. The horrors of this device have been developed by Sir Herbert Baker in his low wall bounding the cast approach to the Council Chamber.
THE COUNCIL CHAMBER.
Thus far, the “ideal and fact of British rule in India ” have found expression, either in purely Western motives such as the Arch, park, and fountain s, or in the purely Indian motive of the Buddhist railings ; though it must be said that the extensive use of water, both in landscape and fountain, was always a feature of Mogul taste as well as European. But the stated intention of the architects seems to imply the achievement of a definite fusion, or an attempt at such, between Indian and European motives. On first consideration, this implication may seem fraught with unmentionable dangers. But that it is not necessarily so (despite a balance of probability on the wrong side), may be seen by forgetting the nineteenth century and remembering the charming effect of Chinese themes on European furniture in the eighteenth.
Furthermore, it must be obvious, on second thought, that the inhabitants of a country will have solved many problems of comfort, light-value, and the best usage of the available material, peculiar to that country; solutions from which the foreign architect will be foolish not to take lessons, even though he wish, at the same time, to retain his own and his nation’s cultural individuality. But there is all the difference in the world between “Fusion” and “Allusion.” The first is the use of diverse architectural inventions and ornamental themes, whatever their dates or racial origins, simply for their practical value in creating an artistic unity and in giving effect ” to the values of Mass, Space, Line and Coherence in the whole design.” The second is the use of these same inventions and themes in a mood of reminiscence-the mood of the nineteenth century- regardless of their relevance to mass, space, line and coherence. The inventions and themes may be virtuous in detachment, but become ineffective and even hideous in conjunction with one another and with the building to which they are attached.
The throwing together of Europe and India has been practised in all the larger buildings of New Delhi , in the Council Chamber, the Secretariats, and the Viceroy’s House. Under the direction of Sir Edwin Lutyens a fusion has resulted; for he has divined the human greatness behind the” ideal and fact,” behind the co-existence of England and India, and from t his Adam has raised up an Eve whose fig-leaves are applied only to increase the beauty of her natural form. Under that of Sir Herbert Baker, the elements have remained separate and allusive : body embryonic ; ornament a writing in symbols.
The Council Chamber has been Sir Herbert’s unhappiest venture. Its effect from a distance has been described. It resembles a Spanish bull-ring, lying like a mill-wheel dropped accidentally on its side.
From an intermediate distance, however, when the visible arc begins to decrease in length, the building gains in solidity and personality. The red foundation, with its upper band of white, becomes more substantial, and its in-stepping is at last made apparent. Similarly, the pillars of the colonnade above begin t o show their true size; though the larger they grow, the more visible is the tiresome irregularity of the windows and entrances in the plaster wall behind them. Final palliation, the bowler-hatted wart on top disappears.
The various carriage-porches, supported on heavy, bracketed arches of red stone in the Hindu fashion, are not without merit. From the brackets depend stone bells, significant of the Indian legend that as long as the bells are silent, so long will the dynasty reign. Above the arches run sloping Mogul citltjjas, like those of the Viceroy’s House, save that here, with the rest of the porch, they follow the main building with a slight curve, which produces an amusing though deformed effect from the side. Above these stand white parapets embellished with classical lions’ heads. Some of the porches are surmounted by octagonal chattris, whose white-crowned, red-brimmed sun-hats fit them well. Their bodies are white, inset with pierced screens of red stone. Similar screens of white stone break the attic storey at the top of the building.
Once inside the colonnade, the effect of a curved gallery, whose massive pillars, divided into black and white by the outward sun, portend that at some remote spot the curve will meet itself and form a circle, and that the zebra’d inner wall of cream plaster will do likewise, produces an impressive sensation of size and novelty. But - and there is a but in every feature of this building - the broad sweep of the gallery is here and there deliberately interrupted by doorless entrances, entirely purposeless, which consist of two small pillars supporting a lintel, on top of which rests a semi-circle of fretted stone. At points where it is desired to denote a porch without, three or four pillars in the colonnade are joined together by equally absurd screens of masonry which arc also adorned with panels of fretwork. The shadow and silhouette effects of these devices resemble the openwork stockings of Edwardian actresses.
The exigencies of constitutional discussion have obliged Sir Herbert Baker to divide the interior of the Council Chamber into three courtyards of peculiar, and indeed fantastic, shape, each of which discloses a section of a pivotal circular building in the centre. They deserve careful study. For they epitomize all that New Delhi might have been; and all that New Delhi, owing to Sir Edwin Lutyens, is not.
Surmounting the cupola of the central building, the wart-like cupola already observed from without, the royal crown of England is reared into the sky on a red stalk. We shall see this again; and also the white bowler hat, flat-brimmed like that of a foreign Jesuit, from which it rises. This hat is Sir Herbert’s adaptation of the roof of a Mogul chaitri into a more European form. It is here supported by a ring of decorated pillars hung with stone pants. The whole rests on an eye, which balances precariously on a grooved white drum. This dome, which forms the entire roof of the plaster gasometer beneath it, rises from within a heavy parapet-cornice, accompanied by a spawn of subsidiary chattris. Below the cornice falls a heavy shadow, which, with various ribs, emphasizes the circular character of the supporting wall. The latter’s bottom zone has been dented with classical niches, between which are placed a series of front doors in Kensington, embellished with sweeping Mogul cornices and supporting, on their fretted balconies, pairs of three-legged urns, whose suspended bodies are so pierced as to consist almost entirely of air. More grotesque ornaments than these elaborately porous containers can scarcely have been devised in any age or style.
The three structures which lie tangent both to the central circular building and the inner wall of the outer ring, thus forming the three courtyards, exhibit curved walls of cream plaster divided into two storeys, each of which is arcaded; the bottom with red pillars; the top with white, off which spring a succession of small arches. In between these latter pillars are hung fretted stone panels, not rectangular, but curving upwards at the upper corners, as though fixed by clothes pegs on a line. Here are not only pants, but petticoats, camisoles, night-dresses, and even tea-gowns. In the final parapet yet other fretted panels have been inlet, highly coloured in a manner believed by designers of American bars to be that of the East.
The art of piercing stone, as practised by the Moguls, was only full y successful when undertaken by the finest craftsmen. There is a vast difference between the exquisite marble screens of the Taj Mahal, whose every curve bears the impress of an artist’s feeling, and the casual out-of-doors panels used in Mogul times for gardens and terraces. The latter are flat and coarse, and are redeemed from ugliness only by the patina and lichens of age. For the essential condition of success in this art is that the depth of the piercing - that is to say, of the whole panel - shall always be greater than the width, on the face of the panel, of any part of the tracery. The resulting pattern of light or dark is thus made subtle and delicate, since it changes with the movements of the beholder.
Even had he wished, Sir Herbert Baker could scarcely have found modern craftsmen capable of reviving this old technique. But evidently he has not wished. Not content with allowing his fretwork to be executed on thin panels, in coarse art-school patterns, by workmen whose ideal is a machine-like uniformity, he has even been at pains to incise and round off the edges of the tracery, thus destroying any illusion of depth that might have remained. And when, in addition, his fretwork is contorted from its proper panel form into frames of inebriate curves, the general effect is disconcerting in the extreme. And why, because the Mogul builders used pierced stone as a means of giving at once light and shade to their rooms, must he attach string-purses to the rims or classical urns? It is necessary to insist on these eccentric proclivities of his at some length, since they reappear in the Secretariats, and they illustrate the difficulty of achieving that fusion of architectural themes which the ideal and fact of British rule in India demand.
The harshness of this criticism may be mitigated by remembering that to place four separate chambers in a given circle is not easy, and that the interior courtyards bear the stamp of drastic economy. But the visitor can only wish that the economy had been still more drastic; and that the architect could have contented himself with effects purely structural and gasometric, instead of lavishing the small harvest of Indian taxes on a permanent imitation of Drury Lane harem scenes.
The manner in which, as the visitor comes up the King’s Way, the front towers first appear on the inside of, then cut across, and finally enclose, the central domes, has been described. That this effect is not entirely satisfactory cannot in fairness be laid at Sir Herbert Baker’s door. In his original design, the towers were to have been twice their present height. By lowering the towers to such an extent, their tops have been brought into relation with those of the domes, so that the sky-line of the group at first describes a convex arc, and afterwards, from closer to, a concave.
Had the towers risen as was intended, they would have been divorced from the sky-line of the group altogether, simply cutting through it and assuming the character of isolated sentinels. It has been suggested that when the demands for economy were presented, the domes, rather than the towers, should have been reduced. The domes might have been abolished; though this would have been a tragedy, since they add greatly to the general effect of the group and the city. But to have reduced their size would have made them ridiculous. As it is, they barely escape being too small for the enormous piles of buildings beneath them.
Apart from these domes (considered without their detail), Sir Herbert Baker’s most effective contribution to New Delhi has been the east foundations of the Secretariats, those, in other words, which support the end-facades and face down the King’s Way. They dominate the Great Place and the central approach; and, by their absence of irritating ornament, they display to the utmost the ripe and massive beauty of the dressed red sandstone of which they are built. It is impossible to insist too frequently or too strongly on the intense depth of colour with which this stone enchants the eye-a mixture of blood, rhubarb, and burnt orange.
Set back from the end-facades, at a distance nearly equal to the latter’s width, run long wings, north and south, outward from the main axis of the city’s design. The line of the east foundations is carried outward in front to an equal distance by a solid red wall, which eventually turns a right-angled corner and goes up to meet the back wings, forming an invisible courtyard. So solidly devised is this wall that it seems as if it must support a platform-an illusion which, optically, still further increases the dimensions and artificial character of the Raisina Hill. Where the pillared extensions of the end-facades leave the foundation, they do so flush with it, their upper foundations, which carry on the red foundation-line of the higher side-levels of the fronts, being relieved only by plain arched entrances. The wall between the extensions is recessed. Below this, in each main foundation, are cut three more arched entrances, approached by a semicircular flight of steps. The line of the main foundation, moving inward, then passes the corner of the building above it, to descend in a gigantic zig-zag balustrade, behind which a broad flight of steps gives approach to the platform above.
Behind the steps, another wall of equal height and character continues to support the platform of the hill, till it turns inwards, at right-angles, to form the trough up which runs the central gradient leading to the Viceroy’s House. Throughout these foundations and walls, the ribs and mouldings are sparse and sane, and are well calculated to increase the effect of ponderous, almost fortified, solidity and stupendous labour. Along the sides of the trough, immediately beneath the parapets of the sunk walls, have been inset a series of excellent wall-lights, projecting hexagons ingeniously framed in stout stone baskets.
This building fills the would-be admirer with regrets. No sooner has he begun to enjoy the massive severity of the east foundations than he is pulled up short by the concentration, in one spot, of all the reminiscence, allusion, and sentiment from which the architect has been so righteously refraining. At the corners of the platforms through which the gradient in its trough ascends, stand two structures t o which the names temples, chattris, bandstands, or municipal fountains, may equally well be applied. As structures they are needed; and from a distance, at least, their existence is better than their absence. But on coming up to them, one recoils from a welter of unrelated motives such as form those “composite” tunes played by military bands. As may be seen from Figs. A and B on page 15, the beauty of the original Mogul chattris, and of those borrowed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, lies in the unity, the sense of growth with which the mouldings and angles of bi-coloured stone invest their slender suggestions of shade.
To provide this suggestion, whose comfort to the eye can only be imagined by those who know India, a thin sloping chujja must be used; and to bring such a chujja into unity with the little roof above it, and the slender legs below it, requires a nicely cultivated architectural sanity. This virtue, admirably expressed in the massive foundations, now recedes before the exigencies of imperial symbolism. Instead of carefully building up his roof and cornice from below, Sir Herbert Baker plumps down a hat from above.
The Council Chamber’s Jesuit bowler has been remarked on. Here this theme is repeated. Again, a white crown of England, supported on a red stalk of Greek acanthus leaves, sits the headcovering of an Italian priest. For ribbon has been substituted a kind of red chair-braid-passementerie is the milliner’s term. Then comes the flat brim. This rises from eight couples of octagonal pillars placed on a circular pyramid of steps, moulded in Hindu fashion, and strung with chains of flat bells. From the pillars, which stand behind one another, rise inverted coffins, pointing inwards towards the centre, upon each of which teems a heavily caparisoned elephant whose trunk uplifts a classical wreath. From in between these animals spring small arches, which, assisted by further coffins on top of the elephants, uphold the hat.
The eastern ends of the Secretariats and their foundations have been analysed at some length, in view of the predominant part played by them in a first impression of the city. A few final details must be added. The pillars of the facades, though their cornices are over-rich, form pleasant and imposing clusters. A red escutcheon and a machicolated balcony, both irritating, disturb the severity of the recessed walls between the extensions where the pillars stand. In line with these details rise the white towers. These, owing to the demands of public economy, have been robbed of their proper character, save at the top, where yet other bowler hats, each with its encoronated finial, sit uneasily on medleys of pillarettes.
The inner sides of the Secretariats, 391 yards in length, and broken each by four pillared extensions similar to those end-facades, are for the most part blessedly plain. The extensions stand in couples. In between the couples, the body of the building is set back so as to allow a better view of the dome above. Above the parapets of the two extensions which flank this inset stand small octagonal chattris finished with balconies of red crochet.
In the centre of the inset walls, below the domes, Sir Herbert Baker has made the great mistake of introducing Mogul doorways. Mogul architecture is entirely scenic and two-dimensional; and to interpolate upon a building of square blocks and heavy shadows a great flat mosque entrance, a tall arch framed in a rectangular inlay of red, whose corners, between those of the inlay and the curves of the arch, are decorated with red rosettes, may be a bold, but is scarcely a successful, venture.
Above these entrances rise the domes, excellent, though not original, in shape, but repellant in detail. Again the British crown calls heaven to witness it from stalk and cupola; though here Sir Herbert has substituted a Spanish toreador’s hat for that of the humble clerk previously favoured. Each dome sits well on its round drum. But the goodness of the effect is interrupted by a gaggle of elephants’ heads encircling the parapet of each base. Below these properties descend coupled pillars, between which round arches are hung with a further selection of underwear; this time upside down and red. The four attendant chattris, ill squeezed in at the bottom, are similarly graced; though their garments hang from a natural clothes line as in the Council Chamber courtyards.
From the outside, the backs of the Secretariats, here descending to the lower level of the surrounding plain, are successful where there is no ornament, and the colonnades that occupy the third and fourth storeys of the projecting wings make a pleasant break in the severe red and white walls. But the main entrances beneath the domes exhibit a piled confusion. Corresponding with those on the inside appear two more flat Mogul archways. But owing to the extra height, these contain, not entrances, but machicolated Romeo balconies and large basins, underneath which small black apertures threaten access to Etruscan tombs. As on the inside, the walls containing these archways are heavily recessed. In front, giving entrance to the courtyard thus formed, stand horseguard lodges surmounted by squatter bowlers than usual and embellished with flat elephants at the spring of the arches.
At length we reach the other end-facades, facing west towards the Viceroy’s house, and again exhibiting pillared extensions and heavy foundations to raise them from the lower level of the plain. Here ornament is entirely lacking; and viewed from afar, the huge buildings, with their succession of wings and dotted rows of windows, attain, despite their gay colour, something of the austere merit of the Escurial. The story is famous of how Philip II supervised in person the building of that monastic palace, and of how, with his own lips, he used to order the workmen to remove the ornament prescribed by the architect. We can only regret that the ghost of that austere monarch was not present during the building of New Delhi. And with the sad reflection that we cannot admire all his work here, we take leave of Sir Herbert Baker.
THE VICEROY’S COURT.
To turn from the Secretariats to the Viceroy’s House is to be transported from a concert of popular classics to a performance of a new and original symphony by an orchestra such as the Viennese Philharmonic. The metaphor is a just one. For, in the last analysis, Sir Edwin Lutyens’s distinction as an architect is found in the absolute precision with which his every external ornament is made to contribute to the general harmony and to accentuate, or modify, the form of the general mass.
The iron screen across the front of the courtyard, when I saw it, was unfinished. Its larger piers are to bear lamp-holding elephants, whose advent, after the recent experience of these animals on the Secretariats, must necessarily be regarded with some apprehension. The most ingenious feature of the screen is the horse-guard boxes, deep shady arches of almost cardboard thinness, but bound, buttressed, and surmounted by heavy blocks of stone; so that each whole appears to have been carved from a lump of living rock.
The features of the court yard - Jaipur column, sunk drives, and basket lanterns - have been enumerated. On either side of it the ground falls to a lower level; and its platform is there upheld by sunk walls, 16 ft. high, and built with a convergent ”batter” to take the weight of the massive outset moulding along the top. These walls are broken by a lateral drive. The points of intersection arc marked by pairs of superb gazebos-each consisting of a white hemisphere, on a red octagon, on a red square, on a red square Mogul chujja, on four squat red piers, between which, so far hidden by shadow as to be almost invisible, are placed square pierced screen. Where the walls turn inwards, towards the Jaipur column, they are transformed into squat cloisters, supported on fat round pillars, from whose tops springing brackets give each archway a Hindu character. The angles of the walls are diversified with a play of crude blocks whose pattern of light and shadow might have been designed by Picasso. Might; for the blocks are now being carved into elephants.
Beyond the pairs of gazebos the walls continue again till they celebrate the approach to the house with similar gazebos, only here single. Beneath each of these, low doorways are embraced by the base mould of the wall, which rises in rectangular shape to accomplish this. The walls are then set back so as to meet the extra foundation of the house necessitated by the lower level. Above these set-backs, before the house is actually reached, are further set back other and smaller walls, shaded by chujjas similar to, and grown out of, the cornices of the gazebos. These cornices, and the galleries thus formed, are continued right across the north and the south sides of the house, save where interrupted by t he north entrance and the south courtyard. But for its necessary doorways and windows, the extra foundation of the house on these sides repeats exactly the character of the sunk walls below the courtyard; so that, viewed from below, the house and court are one thing-as though the house, seating its body and erecting its head, had stretched out its legs to enclose the court; at the same time placing its arms behind it, with the hands closed, to envelop a garden of whose existence the reader is not yet aware.
THE VICEROY’S HOUSE: OUTSIDE.
The various excellences of the front of the Viceroy’s House, and of the dome above it, have been discussed in Part 1. Once again, the tremendous size of the whole must be emphasized. Fortunately, human sentries are always present, beneath the central portico or beside the plinths under the statues of the King and Queen, to furnish the bewildered eye with a scale of measurement.
The detail, where it exists, should be studied at length. In particular the roofs of the small chattris along the parapet provide a striking example of the complicated system of mouldings employed by the architect to obtain the simultaneous effects of growth and simplicity. The plinths of the fountains exhibit an opposite principle: that of great steps of stone, thrust apparently at random on top of one another, but so arranged as to produce a carefully calculated dovetailing of light and shadow. Another interesting feature is the capital employed on the pillars of the main portico. In shape, this resembles the head-piece of a caryatid, swollen round the middle by a corrugated band, and supporting, after a slight interval, a flat mortar-board from whose corners depend the stone bells that will preserve the dynasty. This theme, though excellently proportioned, is endowed with a negative quality out of keeping with the essentially positive character of the building it adorns.
The detail of the dome has already been examined. The hemisphere (without its base mould), and the patterned white drum beneath, derive their shape from the Buddhist stupas of Sanchi. The turrets, in essence, derive from the European Middle Ages. Their caps derive from the Moguls; and likewise the form, though not the course, of the all-round ch1tjja. The remaining elements seem to lack historic precedent. But in reality, as they stand here, none of them has any precedent whatever. Amidst all the cacophony of standardized allusion and whining reminiscence which the present age calls art, Lutyens’s dome strikes a clear note of true aesthetic invention. To have seen it is to carry for ever a new enjoyment, and to add one more to those little separate flames of pleasure whose treasured aggregate alone gives purpose to existence.
From me, feeling thus, criticism would come amiss. I will only append the comments of the architect himself. It strikes him, he says, that the diameter of the upper half of the white drum beneath the dome is too large; he would like to take a foot off the circumference all round, thus modifying the step between it and the dome. And it also seems to him that the whole base of the dome rises too sharply from the immensely long parapet beneath it. This he believes can be rectified by a low wall between the fountains on either side of the portico, together with corresponding walls on the opposite side of the house and across it. The first of these suggested improvements is naturally out of the question. Whether the second will be carried out is not yet decided.
The south side of the house consists of two great wings, each of which projects eastwards and westwards, into the Viceroy’s Court or Garden, from the main axis of the building. These wings have the same character as the front, being flanked each by couples of pylonic blocks, between which (couples) runs a colonnade. The addition to the foundation, with its delicious gallery beneath a second chujja, has been described. In between the two wings, immediately beneath the dome, and so as to show it, is a deep recess whose architecture is of a different character. This differentiation satisfies the eye-as if the skin of an orange had been peeled off to reveal the pigs beneath. A Hindu cloister, similar to those in the sunk walls of the courtyard, gives entrance to the bowels of the house. Above, the windows arc framed in an elaborate system of pilasters and Plaques. These, at present coarse and ugly, will be carved into more delicate forms by Indian workmen. A similar system of ornament, similarly placed and awaiting similar improvement, graces the courtyard within.
The north front presents a design after the same plan as that of the south with its two side wings, save that, in place of the recess just described, there is outset a huge pylonic entrance-block, blind but for a tall central niche which contains a small doorway at the bottom. On either side of the niche, in the red foundations, the Buddhist railing motive re-appears. A splayed flight of steps leads to the entrance, flanked by two piles of red masonry similar to the supporting walls of the Viceroy’s court, and bearing similar red and white gazebos.
There remains only the garden front, facing west, a facade of perfect severity, a background for flowers and trees. From either side protrudes a wing such as those of the main front, but shorter; for the garden front stands farther from the dome than its opposite. From the parapets of the ends of these wings rise two more fountains. But on the parapet of the front itself, there is no ornament, no break whatsoever, with the exception of two small chattris and two extra feet of heightening directly beneath the dome. The sweep of the chujja underneath, with its dotted line of contact above and its heavy black shadow below, stretching the whole length of the house without interruption, is almost forbidding in its ruthless pursuit of distance.
The red foundations, of wings and body alike, are broken by heavy archways, nearly similar to those in front. Along the central fa9ade they number nineteen, each of which is finished at the top with a lace pelmet of red stone; odious, were it visible from without, which it is not; but charmingly frivolous when viewed from within as setting to a garden prospect.
THE VICEROY’S GARDEN.
Of the garden itself, some 12 acres in extent-of its maze of grass squares, flower-beds, and bridged waters at different levels, all framed in the red stone; of its fountains like heaps of pennies; of its exquisite red and white gazebos, whose pierced panels are repeated in the water beside them; of the terraced battlements of flowers that rise like bastions on either side; of the stone Eiffel towers at the ends, bound in flashing brass and awaiting the growth of trees inside them ; of the stone hoops along the further boundary; of the stone pergola in the corridor beyond; and of the final circular enclosure attached to the corridor as a racquet to its handle-many pages could be written, and will be elsewhere.
The general effect, at present, is bare; but in ten years the existing trees will have become a forest. The design, like the elaborate and formal water-systems of the Moguls and the Italians, is strictly architectural, and is thus made the instrument of a logical transition between the great house behind and the rough landscape overlooked. But this process is not accomplished by that alone. For out in the landscape itself lie, on one side, the Viceroy’s stables, and on the other, the Viceroy’s bodyguard lines : complicated and symmetrical groups of buildings, having towers at their ends, and so planned, diamond-wise, as to accentuate their diagonal relation to the central axis - the axis which persists from the Memorial Arch at the foot of the King’s Way to the centre of the garden’s final pond in the circular enclosure beyond the corridor.
Thus, if the Viceroy steps out to pick a rose, he can look up to find the very horizon in deferential alignment with himself. Such is a proper setting for a ruler. But the architect has given his heart to the pansies as well. Throughout every detail of the garden is visible the same consummate manipulation of stone as distinguishes the whole city. And even the flowers have responded to their environment of perfection.
THE VICEROY’S HOUSE : INSIDE.
Of the inside of the Viceroy’s House, I can give only the bewildered impression of a single afternoon. The Viceroy’s staff, angry at being where they did not use to be, complained of its size and intricacy. But those who have made a technical study of comparable houses, the great palaces of France and Italy, built to receive a vast concourse of servants, functionaries, and ceremonial observances, assert that, for ingenuity of planning, this residence has no rival, ancient or modern. The Viceroy’s living-rooms are on the ground floor, giving directly on to the garden; panelled in teak and adorned with tall, flat overmantels of white, grey, and black marble inlaid in chevron pattern. On the first floor are the State-rooms, still, when I saw them, almost empty of furniture. Even had they been totally devoid of all decoration whatsoever, the magnificence and perfection of their proportions must have given unbounded pleasure. But when these proportions, worthy of the double-cube at Wilton or the gallery at Hardwicke, are clothed with crust and ornament of Byzantine splendour, the beholder may well believe that the world of President Wilson and Mr. Ford is safe for aristocracy after all.
In the centre of the house, beneath the dome, is the Durbar Hall, also round, supported on columns of jasper blocks, ceiled with a flood-lit dome, and floored with an immense pattern of porphyry and white marble, whose glass polish reflects the jasper. This floor, typical of those in all the State-rooms, gives meaning to its name. It is the foundation of the room, not a mere texture for the feet. Actually, the red stone is not porphyry. Nor is the green stone in the other floors verde antique. But the architect’s meaning is plain, and his pattern so downright, that he has changed the water into wine. Unfortunately, the workmanship is coarse in places. Indian masons have not been able to imitate that of Antiquity and the Renaissance in the same province.
Other rooms have left impressions on the mind; the State dining-room, scarcely smaller (so it seemed) than the Waterloo Chamber at Windsor, panelled in teak, and resolving, at the end, into a tall teak niche for the reception of the Goldsmiths’ plate ; the square ballroom, of white marble inlaid with immense panels of dark, wine-coloured glass, sufficient for a thousand guests; the apartment whose window discloses the portentous marble posterior of the Queen’s coiffure; and the long drawing-room, again marble, diversified with panels of dull gold brocade and lit from silver sconces. All the details, such as the gilt keys and the door-locks in the form of the royal arms, have the perfection of their French counterparts at the end of the eighteenth century. And almost the entire furniture has been, or is being, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens himself. Few artists can have written so complete an epitaph of themselves on one spot.
One last glory of the house must be described. Its foundations are pierced, on the east and south, by five vaulted carriage-drives, one beside the other, which deposit the arriving guests at the foot of a palatial staircase running round three sides of a well. Above the cornice of the well, the casual eye thinks to discern a coved plaster ceiling. It does and does not. For the cove is there, while the ceiling is absent. Instead of a central plaster panel, there appears the sky, which is interrupted on one side by the looming red, cream, and copper mass of the dome. At night the cove is defined by a dull flood-light. While above the ascending guests, English and Indian, uniformed and starred, white-shouldered or shrouded in stuffs of liquid gold ; above the most renowned jewels, the highest lineage, and the most exigent bureaucracy in Asia, the stars twinkle from a black void and the breeze blows in and out.