Let’s have a Dekko at art Deco


Express News Service

Delhi is home to several Art Deco buildings, but most of these have remained largely unknown. Before we stress on the need to preserve this pre-Independence architectural heritage, we need to raise awareness about their existence. With this intent in mind, the Art Deco Mumbai Trust organised an online meet wherein architects from Delhi, Chennai and Hyderabad, talked about art deco in their respective cities.

Architect Geetanjali Sayal stated that art deco played a significant role in shaping the cultural identity of Delhi under the British rule. Sayal, who researches on the diminishing art deco heritage in the city, spoke about a number of such buildings, the construction of which began in 1931 after the British government set up Delhi Improvement Trust to develop the Old Delhi area, manage the increasing migrant population and design new neighbourhoods.

“Art deco gained popularity as this style was encountered by the Indian elite after travelling in Ocean Liners while the middle class imbibed it as a way of modern living through cinema and advertisements,” said Sayal, adding that princes who acknowledged the British Rule were given plots in Delhi upon which they constructed their residences; the architecture clearly influenced by Mumbai’s art deco.

Sayal informed that three kinds of art deco buildings exist in Delhi. Under the first category is pure style in which the building’s form is usually ornamental or geometric- streamline moderne is a part of that which is a more simplified version inspired by sleek locomotives and ocean liners.

The second category is hybrid – usually spotted in the streets of Old Delhi where a traditional style is blended with the art deco style – old havelis converted into modern looking residences are examples of that. The third style is one which has certain elements in the interior that the outer structure is bereft of.

Most of the art deco buildings now stand hidden in dusty bylanes of Old Delhi – Civil Lines, Darya Ganj, Sabzi Mandi, Sadar Bazar, Pahar Ganj. Some are based in Karol Bagh and Sundar Nagar areas. Unlike heritage tombs and forts which are of tourist value, people live in art deco buildings – the main reason why no thought is given to their preservation.

“Princely palaces such as Dholpur House, Kota House, Jaisalmer House and Faridkot House; commercial complexes like Shankar Terrace in Chandni Chowk, and private residences like Arvind Cottage in Roop Nagar are some of the prominent art deco edifices,” she said. “Most of these were developed by Master Sathe & Bhuta, and Master Sathe & Kothari,” she added.

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