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Connaught Place: An architectural benchmark

Connaught Place (officially Rajiv Chowk) formulated as the Central Business District for the Imperial Government, is now one of the largest and most prosperous financial, business and commercial centres of India. Named in the honor of Field Marshal Prince Arthur, 1st Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, completed its construction in 1933 and since then is an architectural showpiece of the city of New Delhi, and more prominently of Lutyens Delhi. Not many readers would regard this as true that it’s white structure was preceded by a Partridge hunting ground amongst Kikar trees.

Aojasvi Raj

Driving the inspiration from Georgian architectural style and a driving similarity with the Royal Crescent in Bath, England (semi-circular), it covered a full circle with a two storied structure with magestic hallway pillars. Moreover planned radial roads (eight in number) increases its connectivity margin to different parts of Delhi geographically. In addition to that, a little known fact is that, there were earlier plans to build the New Delhi railway station in the Central Park, an idea which was later dumped terming it infeasible. It later paved the way for construction of the railway station near Paharganj, and development of a lush green garden and fountain area in the central park.

With the introduction of talkies cinema in India in 1931, Connaught Place drew to itself four antique cinema houses viz. Odeon, Rivoli, Regal and Indian Talkie House (demolished later), thereby transforming Connaught circus into a commercial-cum-entertainment hub for the newly inaugurated capital.

The colonnaded passages which are double heighted and partially open, creates a hallway which is comforting and easy to house the large population of Delhi that flocks to this central hub of Delhi. This in addition creates a strong force for easy mobility of such large consumer and traveller community of people. When Robert Tor Russell designed this grandiose, 7 blocked structure, he envisaged keeping the ground floor as commercial complex with the first floor as a residential unit for retailer. But such an arrangement found its early exit because of high commercial demand for space in this unit, lesser residential affinity of people to such a crowded place and more return of investment by converting it into a commercial unistructure.

Later on additions to this palatial structure includes a more dedicated redevelopment of the central park with a national flag on mast, development of an underground market named Palika Bazar in the interregnum between inner and outer circle and a humongous Charles Correa designed LIC building which uses Red sandstone as its building block in an attempt to replicate the red fort, another chivalric architecture of New Delhi. Later on accruing to the demand of the people, creation of a separate DMRC metro station at Rajiv Chowk was planned despite having other stations (New Delhi, Barakhamba road etc.) in its very near vicinity.

New Delhi in its very central womb bears this sumptuous structure, but because of poor maintenance, high population footfall stress and Delhi’s outstanding pollution, the structure suffered massive annihilation in recent years. Redevelopment of this heritage structure is the need of the hour. Under the “Return to the Heritage Project” carried by New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC), 2020 was the date which was fixed for a full 7 block, 2 phase redevelopment and rejuvenation of this elegant structure, so that such a chivalric heritage structure is preserved for immemorial times to come as it represents the artistic, architectural, recreational, commercial and receptive culture of India and New Delhi in particular.

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