Friday, 28 March 2014

Joseph King vs. Edwin Lutyens on New Delhi

The other reason why it is of interest that Joseph King's brother, Ernest Powell King, was seemingly a good friend of Edwin Lutyens (as discussed in this post), is that Joseph King "conducted a well-informed Commons campaign throughout 1912, culminating in a wide-ranging attack on the (New Delhi Town Planning Committee) project on 20 December" (Dictionary of Scottish Architects).  I wonder how relations between Joseph King and Lutyens were impacted by this architectural disagreement?  Although Joseph's brother, E.P. King died in 1905 and so would not have been party to this situation.

North Block Facade, Sir Edwin Lutyens,
New Delhi from World of Stock
Joseph King's 20th December 1912 speech highlights is strong belief in preserving Indian craftsmanship and architecture.  This provides further insight into the Haslemere Peasant Arts' respect for the skills of different cultures.  A position which whilst more widely held today, was not the norm in a time where our King was referred to as "King Emperor".  The last two paragraphs below are particularly enlightening.

Hansard (20 December 1912 vol 45 1945-55) records this event:
"I invite the House to make a complete change of atmosphere and subject, and from the tobacco fields of Ireland to proceed with me to the site of the new Delhi. It is a proud thought to remember that it is a year and four days ago that His Majesty, the King Emperor, laid the foundation stone of the great new capital which those of us who live long enough and have the money to go out there hope to witness one day. On the same day that the great announcement of this change was made by the King himself in Delhi it was announced here in the House by the Prime Minister, and the Leader of the Opposition at once stated that this must obviously be a matter to be fully discussed, whereon, with his usual courtesy and decision, the Prime Minister said obviously this must be the subject of Parliamentary discussion. 

"I propose to give the House the leading questions connected with this great Imperial question. The King Emperor himself, in the course of his speech, said that the new creation must be a city in every way worthy of this beautiful ancient city of Delhi, and a little later the Viceroy in Council announced his strong personal interest in the subject, stated that he had given a great deal of personal attention to the question of this new Delhi, and expressed the opinion that the buildings should be in Indian style and should be carried out by Indian craftsmen. In doing so, he was understood at the time to speak as Viceroy, and to convey the opinion and considered judgment of the very highest authority in the land. What has happened since? The Government of India sent out a Town Planning Committee. It was stated that this Committee should be one of the very highest authority. It was to consist, we were told, of a sanitary engineer, a town planner, and architect, and a landscape gardener. The three gentlemen who were sent out were Mr. Brodie, an engineer, against whom I have not a word to say, and a most eminent man in his profession. Then there was Captain Swinton, a man very well known as Whip of the Moderate party on the London County Council, a former aide-de-camp of the Viceroy of India and no doubt a man of the world, who knew his way well about India, but I contend not cither an expert in town planning architecture or landscape gardening. The third member of this Town Planning Committee was Mr. Lutyens, an excellent architect, a gentleman who has built country houses and work of that description for people who can appreciate artistic architecture, but who has had no experience whatever of large public buildings or town planning.

An aerial view of the completed city of New Delhi with the war memorial at the end of Kingsway. Photo courtesy of Centre for South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge

"Some criticism was naturally directed to the composition of this Committee, and it was promised to us again and again, both by question and answer across the Floor of the House, and also on the occasion of the Indian Budget last year, I hat (hope?) their report should be published with all expedition and that their plans should be ex- hibited in the Tea Room. Whatever we may have seen in the Tea Room, we have not seen their plans, and whatever we have been able to get in the Vote Office, we have not yet got their report, and this is all the more remarkable because, as soon as this Town Planning Conimittee returned after its first visit to India in July last, what purported to be a summary of their Report appeared in the "Pall Mall Gazette" of 24th July…

"I wish to utter my protest against a decision being taken thus early, and in this manner, against Indian art and architecture. If anyone would wish to know what Indian art and architecture can do, let them go to South Kensington in the holidays—they can take their wives and families or anybody else with them—and see the magnificent architectural examples exhibited there, and the beautiful work which is being done in perfect tradition with the best old times of India. I wish also to call the attention of the House to the fact that we are going to set up in Delhi buildings which might as well be set up in New York or Rio de Janeiro. We shall be giving no national expression to the great nation of India, but really be slighting the national art, architecture, and craftsmen in our great Empire. There is another most important point, namely, that after all we are governing India as trustees for the Indians, not on our own account, but because we believe we have a great Imperial mission. The bill is to be paid by the Indians. The whole cost of the new Delhi is to be paid entirely out of the revenues of India. I want emphatically to protest against the revenues of India being made the servants of British or Italian art. I want the Indians to have a chance of working out the splendid craftsmanship and the splendid genius they possess, very different from our own—a genius that cannot be denied.

"If hon. Members will take the trouble to look into the current number of the "Sphere," they will see a magnificent set of illustrations of modern Indian works of architecture—buildings erected recently throughout the Indian Empire. I venture to say that for beauty, skill, craftsmanship, and magnificence of design, totally alien as they are to our art, and totally inappropriate as they would be for buildings to be erected in London, these buildings cannot be surpassed throughout the world. I feel deeply on this subject, not only as a man who loves art, but as a man who loves the British Empire. I would like to feel that we are doing a great act of justice, and advancing the progress and prosperity of our great Indian Empire, and therefore I conclude by asking hon. Members whether it is fair that the Indians, who have great genius, a great history, and a great tradition, should be asked to pay out of their revenue in order that some architects—excellent men, no doubt, and gifted and accomplished artists too—may have the opportunity of erecting in the new Delhi palaces of Italian art. The idea, though furthered by one paper, and promoted by another, is in itself absurd and unjust. I hope we shall have the Report of what the Town Planning: Committee has been doing, and that we-shall have some plans and drawings, exhibited in the Tea Room, and that at any rate, we shall not be told that the decision-has been taken to put up modern western-palaces in the great capital of our Eastern. Empire."

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