The Town Planning Review 4 (October 1913):185-187.
Within twelve months plans of two capital cities have come under our notice for review: Canberra and Delhi--what better reply to those who hold that there is no use for Town Planning, all our cities being built? Surely the practice of Town Planning is firmly established in this double event. But the cases are only slightly comparable: Canberra, the new capital of Australia, is an entirely new town, whilst the new capital city of Delhi is in reality merely an extension of an older city of the same name, designed to receive the offices and official residences of the Imperial Government of India.
The third report of the Town Planning Committee, which includes the proposed plans of the layout, is now to hand and is interesting reading. It is particularly so to the architect, designed, as it is, to captivate the imagination of the Indian with the glories of architectural display.
The Committee at the outset were faced with choosing one of two well-contested sites, and their action in insisting upon the adoption of the one which was perhaps the least popular, though undoubtedly the best, is to be commended. There was evidently considerable opposition to be met in relinquishing the site where the foundation stone was laid at the Durbar; hence almost the whole of the first two reports and a great portion of the third, is devoted to the question of site. So much of the third report as deals with the proposed new city, and its plan, amounts to a nomenclature of the principal buildings, avenues, and places, a description of the traffic arrangements, and a presentation of the engineering problems: water supply, draining, &c.
Taken as a whole the scheme is boldly conceived, and the principal features are relatively in the right place, but the enthusiasm of the authors for the attainment of fine architectural effects precluded them from giving much study to the problems of the individual and to the growth of the city as an organisation of social units.
Town Planning as a study has recently made great strides in its recognition and analysis of the social structure from which the
city springs, and to those who have surveyed cities and analysed their organisation, noted the tendencies of their growth, and, like Pickwick, the first town planner of the modern school, studied their human nature, the report is disappointing.
Apart from the elementary idea of placing the native clerks in one spot, Indian chiefs in another, and white people elsewhere; and calling the main street connecting the station with the centres of the new and old town the principal business street, there is practically no attempt to anticipate its development and growth.
Evidently the Committee have concentrated on architectural display and the importance of making the new capital and its government buildings an expression of the dignity of the Empire. They were certainly justified in so doing, but even here the result is not convincing, and the more closely the plan is studied the more obvious become its defects.
How very unsatisfactory is the "Station Place"; a compromise between the dominance of a station building and the interest of a diagonal crossway; how badly this thoroughfare terminates on the Secretariat; and how reluctantly the two wings of these buildings separate to allow the Government House to be viewed from the Mall! How pitifully this building, half hidden by the knoll upon which rests the Secretariat, cries out to be acclaimed the climax of the Mall, and how cruelly the intellectual group of buildings, situated in the progress of the great approach, sever it in half!
Still, with all these defects, the plan has some good points: the idea of radiating the secondary approaches to the Secretariat buildings in duplex systems on twin columns is extremely ingenious, and to project the grand axis on the river instead of on the old town is a natural and noble idea. Unfortunately the worst faults in the scheme are what we would call architectural ones, and we cannot help feeling that the plan has been hastily published, and that the Committee would have been wiser had they not published it in the diagrammatic stage, as we cannot believe that the defects mentioned will appear in its execution. Compared with the plan of the Government group of buildings at Washington, it is much more involved. The majestic dominance of that unrivalled climax, the Capitol Building, is entirely wanting. The climax of the city and the dominating feature at Delhi, instead of being designed as a single whole upon which the eye could rest with satisfaction, is severed into two halves.
As an essay in architectural grouping it is not equal to several of the designs submitted in competition for Canberra, and although the Indian Government were no doubt to be congratulated in obtaining the advice of Mr. Lutyens and Mr. Brodie in their choice of the site and in the preparation of the plan, at the same time the result justifies us in suggesting that after all perhaps the most satisfactory means of obtaining a good town plan is to have a careful report prepared, and inaugurate an open competition.
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