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Architecture in the Evolution of a City


Meena Bhargava

DELHI: A THOUSAND YEARS OF BUILDING
By Lucy Peck
Lotus Collection, an imprint of Roli Books, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 308, Rs. 500.00

VOLUME XXX NUMBER 8 August 2006

Lucy Peck’s guide to thousand years of concrete and mortar of Delhi provides a valuable insight into Delhi’s historical monuments. Based on secondary sources, it is not a mere mundane description of the monuments. The explanation of the buildings is accompanied by interesting anecdotes of Delhi’s past and aesthetically well shot pictures. This book is an outcome of the author’s association with Seven Cities of Delhi Group. Working with this group, Peck could explore Shahjahanabad and meet the local inhabitants. This made her conscious of the need to write differently a book on Delhi.   An architect and town planner by profession, Peck divides Delhi into distinct geographical areas and relates them to different periods of history. To bring alive the historical as well as the geographical context of Delhi to the citizens of Delhi and the visitors to it, the author makes an exhaustive use of maps, line drawings and even the walk routes. Though she describes her maps as adjunct to the Eicher City Map of Delhi, she expresses her disappointment over the insufficient accuracy of Eicher at least for some areas of Delhi. The book specifically focuses on those buildings which explain the growth of Delhi and its architecture, although as the author observes, some buildings, which have been listed in the INTACH volume, Delhi, The Built Heritage have not been mentioned in this book. The book concentrates not merely on the “scattered remains” of the earlier cities of Delhi but also describes how each new city of Delhi affected the developments in Delhi and the present look of Delhi. Peck rightly argues that modern Delhi is very different from historic Delhi. Therefore, to understand the manifestations of the former, it becomes absolutely essential to explain the old sites of Delhi.   The fascinating buildings of Delhi can be traced to last thousand years. In fact, Delhi has remained an important urban centre since the eleventh century although many of its areas now considered ‘cities’ were earlier either suburban or unidentifiable. The first concerted effort to conserve the ancient sites of Delhi was made by Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlak in the fourteenth century. Charmed by the beauty of ancient Delhi, several European travellers wrote a number of books during the colonial period. The earliest work on Delhi monuments is however that of Syed Ahmad Khan written in the mid nineteenth century. Though not translated fully ...


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