Lutyens Bungalow Zone

World Monuments Watch
Delhi, India

2002 World Monuments Watch

In 1911, the British Government of India decided to move the country’s administrative capital from Calcutta to Delhi, inaugurating New Delhi in 1931. Designed on a radial plan by Sir Edwin Lutyens, with several key buildings by Sir Robert Baker, New Delhi is not a Western-style city transported to the Subcontinent, but rather a synthesis of Indian and European civic and architectural ideals, with gracious vistas, manicured gardens, watercourses, and tree-lined avenues. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Lutyens Bungalow Zone, a 2,800-hectare area built to house government officials and their administrative offices. It gives New Delhi a distinctive and rare character. Though the Bungalow Zone comprises less than two percent of present-day Delhi, an official lobby of politicians and builders is determined to demolish it, branding the zone’s buildings as sprawling, space-consuming, and beyond repair. Their intention is to replace them with high-rise, high-occupancy residential and commercial developments to augment the capital’s housing needs. Advocates for the preservation of the Bungalow Zone have offered to draw up alternative and adaptive proposals, noting that the uniqueness of New Delhi lay in the fact that it is a city of gardens. They hope to galvanize public opinion to preserve a unique British legacy in India. Insensitive redevelopment would sound the death knell to this magnificent district, turning it into another urban nightmare.

Since the Watch

Shortly after the 2002 Watch announcement, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) issued a charter for the importance of the Lutyens Bungalow Zone and the threats it faces. In 2003 a 42-member delegation of the United Kingdom-based Lutyens Trust visited Delhi and participated in workshops, tours, and meetings. In October 2007 a photography exhibition on Edwin Lutyens' work was mounted at the British Council in Delhi. In 2008, a plan of the Delhi Urban Art Commission (DUAC) proposed the establishment of a protected district encompassing an area with a high concentration of bungalows. The plan also called for infill design and demolition in other bungalow precincts, and met with the approval of the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC). Later in the same year, after DUAC, NDMC, the Delhi Development Authority, and INTACH failed to reach an agreement on this plan, the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi asked that the plan be modified. These discussions took place in the context of the development of a new master plan for Delhi, MPD-2021. In May 2009, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Delhi Chapter of INTACH and the Lutyens Trust. The first object of the partnership will be to conduct a preservation planning study for presentation to the Ministry of Culture. The two parties anticipate seeking World Heritage status for the Lutyens Bungalow Zone in the future. An international conference with the title "Conservation of Shahjahanabad and Lutyens' Bungalow Zone: Contrasting Conservation Imperatives for the Growing Metropolis of Delhi" was convened by the Delhi Chapter of INTACH in April 2010, and focused on the Lutyens Bungalow Zone as a historic precinct in need of careful management. Over the years, inappropriate alterations to historic bungalows have persisted, in spite of their protected status. Now, the Lutyens Bungalow Zone is threatened again by a plan to relax existing restrictions in order to allow high-rise real estate development. December 2013

Last updated: June 2018.

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