Historical, Political, Economic, Religious and Architectural Aspects
Images of Empire: Re-Use in the Architecture and City Planning of British India
The political instability in Bengal and the general fragility of the British presence in India at the start of the twentieth century led, amongst other reasons, to the decision to move the imperial capital from Calcutta to Delhi. This article will examine the design of the governmental headquarters and the layout of the newly-planned capital city as well as the surrounding debates and the underlying political reasons.
Announced by King George V during the coronation darbar in 1911, the development process of this new imperial centre sparked intense debates amongst British architects in India and politicians at home in England. The main question was the style of architecture to be chosen to visually represent the British Empire in its colony. Should a purely Western style be chosen to indicate a perceived superiority of the British or should local architectural elements be integrated to indicate the significance and acceptance of the local culture? This was a deeply political question, signalling different approaches in dealing with the political crisis and insecurity facing the colonial power at the time. In the end, a hybrid style, combining aspect of Western architectural traditions and local motifs and building conventions was chosen.
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