Lucknow University: “An Architects’ Muse”

Arijit Bose

Lucknow: Lucknow University recently turned 100. Not just as a cradle of academic excellence, but also as a place that is rich from the architecture point of view, it has attracted many students of architecture and expert architects at large.

Heritage enthusiasts got a taste of architectural history and beauty of the Lucknow University (LU) campus in an event organized by a local group Citizens for Lucknow.

Vandana Sehgal, Principal and Dean Faculty of architecture and planning, Abdul Kalam Technical University (AKTU) and Ritu Gulati, an LU alumna and associate professor, faculty of architecture, AKTU, walked all through LU’s past.

They delved in detail about the buildings journey from times of  Swinton Jacob to the modern day façade with historic Lal Baradari, a gate and a canal from the 19th century pleasure garden.

Vandana Sehgal said, “Adding to the experience of LU are a canal and the Lal Baradari. It is a very centralized Charbagh kind of a concept. A beautiful  bridge intersects two parts of the canal. There are two gateways and a pavilion. There is mostly use of lakhori bricks in building the University. The fountain side of the University remains untouched. The architecture of LU uses space well and ensures good light. Architects were sensitive to save heritage. In Indo sarsinic style it lay emphasis on arcades, arches, domes etc.”

Sehgal said, “ The new additions could have been planned better. Master plan could be better. Simplistic yet unique but the morphology is changing with 10 different parts of the University. The University stands on the premises of Badshah Bagh— the walled pleasure garden built during the rule of Nawab Nasirud-din Haider.

Vandana Sehgal said, “There are memories, anecdotes and learning aplenty. One visit gives you tangible aspects of the University. LU is like a city that is growing. Most of our memories were outside. The trees, the birds and open discussions. Interest started while researching about Lucknow. Lucknow has taken up several layers. It stands as an amorphed amalgamation of all these layers. Developments at the Northwest were the Nawabi era, the Central square was dedicated to the British and the South east was the post Independent developments after 1947.”

Explaining the overall genesis of the city she pointed out – the city gradually grew from the North West to the South East. It all started with the Machhi Bhawan. Aroond 1000 BC it was a prosperous civilization as per historical records. The Sheikhs started settling in Lucknow and Mughals ushered in a major phase of developments. Gol Darwaza to Akbari Darwaza proved to be a major trade route for sugar exports. City grew around chowks. Nawabs came in Imambaras and public spaces. With British interference, architecture saw European influence.

Saadat Ali created Ganj connecting Farhat Baksh to Dilkusha. All palace complexes were constructed along this street. Britishers who were scared by the mutiny of 1857 were divided into a mesh of streets helping army vehicles pass.

Ritu Gulati said, “LU over its long journey of 100 years has seen lots and lots of layers. The idea behind the talk is to unearth those hidden layers. When one is in the University one would rarely go through the architecture, the space etc. For the student a tree and a bench is more memorable. From the point of view of an inmate. Architects see the building in a different way.”

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