British Architecture in India

Exact Match

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British Architecture                                                                                                         

A revelation in Architecture: In the prevailing eclecticism of the age, English design reformers, disgusted with the regurgitation of the classical and mediaeval styles of Europe's past as the individual architect thought fit for his particular purpose, had turned back to the native vernacular traditions and produced the so-called 'Free-Style', hybrid but non-historicist and of little interest to Anglo-Indians.

On the other hand, the hybrid aspect of the style Scott devised for Bombay, though still essentially foreign and historicist was a crucial pointer for Anglo-Indian public builders away from a narrow cultural chauvinism towards Indian traditions. To that extent, it was reformative. However, the synthesis that the Anglo-Indians were to evolve, far from rejecting overt allusion to the monumental styles of the past, added a resounding new dimension to historicist eclecticism in a truly imperial style, which reached its apotheosis in New Delhi.

Reformative architecture in Bombay: The energetic Governor, Sir Bartle Frere - of which Scott’s buildings were so significant a product, launched a public building campaign in Bombay in the second half of the 1860s. The campaign opened with the Decorated Gothic scheme for the rebuilding of St Thomas's Cathedral by the Government Architect, James Trubshawe. This was only partially realized, but Trubshawe made a weighty contribution, in collaboration with W. Paris, in the General Post and Telegraph Office of 1872.

Of other landmarks produced by the campaign, William Emerson's Crawford Markets - in an elementary northern Gothic delineated in the various coloured stones, which contributed so much to the success of the Gothic Revival in Bombay - reflected the ideals of the early design reformers at home more nearly than any other prominent Anglo-Indian building of the period.

For the Public Works Secretariat, Colonel Henry St Clair Wilkins, Royal Engineers, followed Scott's lead with a Venetian Gothic design in 1877 and his colleague Colonel John Fuller mixed Venetian and early English for the stupendous High Court of 1879. The culminating masterpieces of the series, increasingly hybrid in style, are Frederick Stevens' works, especially Victoria 51 Terminus (1878-87), the headquarters of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway.

This certainly rivals London's St Pancras in élan, but is more specifically indebted to Scott's symmetrical scheme for the Government Offices in Whitehall (1856), with its open forecourt flanked by three-storey turreted wings and the German Houses of Parliament, Berlin (1872) with its innovative dome. Like Scott's University buildings, the Venetian Gothic of Stevens' splendid terminus is infused with Indian decorative elements.


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