A century later, Lutyens’ showpiece turns to a friend

When he set out to build New Delhi, Edwin Lutyens had in mind tree-lined avenues and gardens. So he turned to horticulturist William Robert Mustoe to push his plans. They also worked closely to create the Mughal gardens of the Viceroy's House, which later became the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

A century later, a conservation plan, faithful to the original plan of the Viceroy's House, has been unrolled. The Indian National Trust For Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) has been asked by the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) to use the original plan to carry out landscaping and urban design work on President Estate.

The INTACH, which has already started work, is consulting the detailed description of Mustoe's landscaping in the original plan.

"We will keep to the true spirit of the plan. Over the years, planting has been done around the estate without much planning. For instance, Ashoka trees have been planted in huge numbers. We will have to see if some of them need to be uprooted. The best landscape artists have been hired as consultants for this project,'' INTACH convenor A G K Menon said.

According to Menon, the conservation plan for Rashtrapati Bhavan will be implemented in two phases. Phase-I will include the landscape and urban designing aspect.

"This work will be over in three months. The second phase will include taking on work to restore the original building. A detailed 3D laser scanning of the building will be carried out and another consultant will be involved for this work,'' Menon said.

Work on conservation of the main building will be over in six months and a third-party review will be done thereafter. Fire safety measures will be part of the plan.

The estate houses about 10,000 people. "Many of the structures have come up in complete disregard to the character of the place. We will have to look at the original layout and decide what kind of structures fit the heritage character of the estate," Menon said.

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