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Past rescues present-day CP

When architect Robert Tor Russell drew up the designs for Connaught Place in 1932, he had the foresight enough to create two designs.

delhi Updated: Apr 26, 2010 00:12 IST
Neelam Pandey

When architect Robert Tor Russell drew up the designs for Connaught Place in 1932, he had the foresight enough to create two designs.

The first design—on which CP was initially modeled—had a residential complex with a verandah on the first floor and a commercial complex on the ground floor. However, Russell’s second design—which was not used—had been made keeping in mind the future commercialization of the area. In this design, windows replaced the verandah and both the ground and first floor were made commercial in nature.

Today, 74 years later, Connaught Place is being restored. And guess which design is the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) using for the restoration? The second one—the one that wasn’t used.

So when the NDMC began its work, and hunted for the design, they found the second design in the archives of the Central Public Works Department. The NDMC officials decided to use this design for the restoration.

“We were lucky to find a full set of drawings of the CP signed by the architect and two photographs of CP as it stood in 1936. Due to urbanisation and commercialisation this has become prime land and traders had started using the first floor for commercial purpose, too. So, logically, we decided to use the second design for restoration purpose wherein windows were constructed on the first floor,” said Ramesh Raina, civil engineering (director) NDMC.

Named after the Duke of Connaught, the construction of the market began in 1929 based on an outline by W.H. Nichollas and was completed in 1933 as per Russell’s designs. The need to restore the market was felt way back in 2005 as the structure had deteriorated with time. However, the initial plan was to give the area a simple facelift, which was later extended to carry out an overall development of the area and preserve its architecture.

Connaught Place was constructed to cater to the elite class living in the New Delhi area which was planned by British architect Edwin Lutyens. “The Walled city was quite far from the New Delhi area and a need was felt to create a city centre to cater to the elite class living in the New Delhi area. Connaught Place was constructed keeping this in mind. For the masses living in barracks, Gole market was created,” said a senior NDMC official.

The civic agency has begun work on the façade restoration of 16 blocks in CP along with construction of eight new subways in the Outer circle. Under this project the original historical architectural concept of CP would be restored. Modern signages will be placed across the market; structural retrofitting of buildings will be done. Engineering improvement of roads, drainage, sewerage, water supply, substations etc would also be done. In addition to this the eight new subways will also have facility for the cyclists. “These subways will have a cycle track. Cyclists headed to CP through Baba Kharak Singh Marg (Outer circle) will be able to use the subway to enter the inner circle,” added the official.