British Architecture in India

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British Architecture                                                                                                         

The Madras Government House: The vestiges of the British architecture can be traced to the times when the East India Company had a firm hold over a large part of the Indian mainland. The Madras Government House represents the architecture trends of the period. Unlike its French equivalent at Pondicherry, Government House Triplicane, Madras (now Chennai) is typical except for its later Banqueting Hall.

The Madras Government House was adapted for Lord Clive in the 1790s from an earlier one, after the pattern set at Pondicherry by the residence built for Dupleix some fifty years earlier. There superimposed arcaded loggias before clerestory-lit major spaces were articulated with Doric and Ionic Orders in the Academic Classical manner of early 18th-century France.

At Triplicane, however, much lighter colonnaded verandahs, elegant but quite uncanonical in their intercolumniations, were erected around much of the side as well as the front. The whole complex is dominated by the Doric Banqueting Hall, which, even in its original form without the lower arcading -but not least in the application of column to wall - was as remote from its ostensible model, the Parthenon, as the main house is from Academic Classical principle.

The Bombay Town Hall: Quite different in its exceptional Neo-Classical gravitas is the Bombay Town Hall of Colonel Thomas Cowper, Bombay Engineers. It is hardly inferior to many of the works of the masters of French Neo-Classicism. The Greek Doric Order of its powerful temple-fronts doubtless came from the principal source of the English Greek Revival, the work of Stuart and Revett, and the dramatically lit staircase leads to a splendid Corinthian Hall.

Despite their airy porticos and slender steeples, the walled and pillared later colonial churches, 'Palladian' in the English sense, ultimately Roman, usually avoid the insubstantiality if not always the coarseness, of detail characteristic of many secular works. St Martin in the Fields was to be an enduringly popular model.

The most accomplished homage paid to it was certainly in St George's Cathedral and St Andrew's Kirk, Madras. To the Gibbs's formula, Colonel James Caldwell and Major Thomas de Havilland added side porches for St George's and sturdy aedicules below the distinguished steeple. St Andrew's, with an elegant, fluted Ionic order and a more purely classical steeple, is adventurous in following Gibbs's alternative scheme with circular nave.


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