Iconic buildings that came up between 1930 and 1940 became the new Capital’s landmarks. From sanctuaries of
learning to temples of worship and residential enclaves, these structures stood witness as a young nation made cultural history.
Lady Irwin College
The Lady Irwin College was started in 1931 to give impetus to women’s education in the country. One of the first in the region to offer home science as a subject, the college started with 11 students. It was established under the patronage of Lady Dorothy Irwin, by champions of women’s education, including the Maharani of Baroda and Begum of Bhopal, Sarojini Naidu, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Annie Besant, Kamala Devi Chattopadhyay, and Sir Ganga Ram Kaula. The first course offered by the college was a one-year certificate course in Home Science. Within two years of its opening, the college established a hostel for 60 students, thus becoming one of the first women’s colleges to have this facility. With time, the college introduced courses in domestic science, teaching and needlework. The college shifted to its current campus at Sikandra Road in 1938. Till 1950, the college was managed by the All India Women’s Education Fund Association. After this, it was affiliated to the University of Delhi, following which honours degree courses were introduced.
Among Delhi residents, the Laxminarayan Mandir is popularly known as Birla Temple, as it was built by BD Birla of the Birla Group of Industries. For decades, this temple has attracted hundreds of devotees for Janmashtami celebrations. The construction of the temple — dedicated to Lord Vishnu and his consort Goddess Laxmi — began in 1933. In 1939, it was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi on the condition that entry to the temple would not be restricted to Hindus and people from all castes would be allowed inside. Built in red sandstone, the complex’s main three-storey temple has tall spires, sculptures and jaali work. The temple’s decorative features include stucco work and Indian religious motifs. The walls have brick masonry and stone is used for the floor. Apart from the presiding deity in the sanctum sanctorum and smaller temples for other gods, the complex also has a Geeta Bhawan.
Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital
Established in 1932, Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, then known as Willingdon Hospital, was established by the British government for their staff and had only 54 beds initially. Over the last 80-odd years, the hospital has grown rapidly and now has nearly 1,000 beds, catering to patients people from New Delhi and central Delhi. Spread over an area of 30 acres, the single storey administrative block of the hospital still retains its colonial features. These include arched colonnades and a small dome. After independence, control of the hospital was shifted to New Delhi Municipal Committee. In 1954, its reins were transferred back to the central government. Every year, the hospital caters to about 12 lakh patients as OPD cases and admits around 46,000 patients. About 1.5 lakh patients are attended to in Emergency.
Sujan Singh Park
The Sujan Singh Park was designed by Walter Sykes George, the British architect who designed other famous buildings in the city. Built in 1945, it’s modelled on 20th century British housing complexes, with its large, high-arched entrances, art deco facades and large windows. These were the first apartments in New Delhi, which only had bungalows till then. In fact, it was with Sujan Singh Park that the European style of identical housing was introduced in Delhi. Walter Skyes George, created gardens squares — each block of the four-storey building encloses a square park — in keeping with the design of New Delhi, which boasted of large gardens. The apartments are named after the grandfather of this enclave’s most famous resident — Khushwant Singh.
Modern School, Barakhamba Road
In the 1920s, there were mostly missionary or government schools in Delhi. Modern School was the first public school. The school started out from a bungalow in Daryaganj in 1920 and was jointly founded by Lala Raghuvir Singh and Sir Sobha Singh. Sir Sobha Singh’s sons, Bhagwant Singh and noted writer Khushwant Singh, were among the first students of the school. The school moved to its present building at Barakhamba Road between 1930 and 1935.
The main school building was completed in 1935 and has two storeys. In its early years, classes were held in the 15 classrooms on the ground floor and teachers would live on the first floor. At that time, the cost of project was estimated at Rs. 9 lakh.