Barakhamba under art attack to celebrate ‘last bungalow’

A Dilapidated bungalow might not be the best introduction to Delhi's once magnificent Barakhamba Road. Unfortunately, it might be the last.

In a long, towering row of office blocks, 20-Barakhamba Road stands out almost like an island. But its days are numbered: this broken-down bungalow with a lavish lawn, reminiscent of an architectural style that dominated Barakhamba Road in the colonial days, will soon go the office block way. Till then, though, it can still be celebrated as an urban space that has not gone totally 'urban'.

That's precisely what an art installation has done: an uprooted tree hanging from a crane suspended from the roof, celebrating open spaces and decrying trees being cut in the name of development.

"In all the buildings on Barakhamba Road, this was the only one which looked anything similar to what this stretch had looked like decades ago," Gobind Singh, biologist and organiser of the 48oC festival, said. "We wanted to celebrate the fact that this building had failed to turn into another multi-storey — it has a lawn, and it has breathing space. It reflects an identity it had hung on to."

The ongoing festival seeks to celebrate and link art with ecology.

The building's curator, Rajendra Singh, 65, has seen Barakhamba Road change. "There were only bungalows in this area when I came here 30 years ago," he said. "The bungalows looked more or less like each other in their design. Then, the Kanchenjunga office complex came up to the left of this building; the Hans Hotel followed."

After that, one bungalow was razed after the other, giving rise to multi-stories.

Singh doesn't oppose development but enjoys the stately air the old bungalows exude: "The Metro coming to this road is good. Before that, too many cars jammed the way. But look at this bungalow — it's old, but now the most different."

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