[Lutyens' s system of proportion] began the link between us, by a chance action of mine, within the first year of my meeting him. He would never discuss it. It was intensely personal to him. [... He once] spoke to a group of students. One asked 'What is proportion?' and he answered 'God'. (Walter Sykes George to Hope Bagenal, lanuary 1959)1
Walter Sykes George (1881-1962) was a remarkable Anglo-Indian architect. Obituaries in Indian and British journals cast him as a 'Renaissance' man: an artist, Byzantine archaeologist, architect, town planner, philosopher, historian, public intellectual, humanist, Modernist, even an Indian nationalist.2 He features prominently in one recent history of modern architecture in India, a rare accolade for an 'Anglo- Indian' architect - an architect born in Britain who practised and lived for much of his life in India.3 In spite of being one of Delhi's most prolific architects, his name does not appear in Philip Davies's Splendours of the Raj, even though his colleagues Robert Tor Russell (1888-1972), Arthur Gordon Shoosmith (1888-1974) and Henry Medd (1892- 1977) all do.4 Of the members of the so-called Tndo-British School of Architecture' who followed Herbert Baker (1862-1946) and Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944) to Delhi, he was alone in staying in his adopted country after Independence in 1947.5 His two greatest achievements are Kashmir House (1927-29), which he co-designed with Lutyens, and the rebuilding of St Stephen's College (1939-52), part of the University of Delhi, and one of India's most elite higher education establishments.
This article , which builds on extensive research in the UK and time spent in India over the past three years, seeks to explain the interactions between George and Lutyens, who was arguably George's most important tutor. To throw light on this matter, detailed use will be made, for the first time, of George's correspondence with Anne Shearer (1952), a family friend, and with Hope Bagenal (1959), the architectural theorist and acoustician.6
- 1. London, RIBA Prints and Drawings Room (Victoria and Albert Museum), Hope Bagenal papers, BaHo/1/3, p. 1: Walter George to Hope Bagenal
- 2. London, RIBA (Portland Place), Walter George Biographical File, J. B. Fernandes, 'Obituary: Walter George, p. 1, and T. J. Manickam, 'Obituary: Walter Sykes George', p. 1. Also, Anon., 'Obituary: Walter Sykes George', Urban and Rural Planning Thought (February 1962) pp 1/2
- 3. Rahul Khanna, The Modern Architecture of New Delhi (Noida, 2008), pp. 20-27; Gavin Stamp, 'Indian Summer', Architectural Review, 159 (June 1976), pp. 365-66; Gavin Stamp, 'British Architecture in India', Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, 129 (May 1981), p. 376; Gavin Stamp, 'India: End of the Classical Tradition', Lotus International 34 (1982), pp. 80-81; Gavin Stamp, 'Lutyens, India, and the Future of Architecture', Lutyens Abroad, ed. Andrew Hopkin
- 4. Philip Davies, Splendours of the Raj (London, 1985), pp 235, 236 and 241.
- 5. RIBA (Portland Place), Walter George papers, Fernandes, 'Obituary', p. 2; and Robert Byron, 'New Delhi', Architectural Review, 69 (January 1931), p 13.
- 6. RIBA Prints and Drawings Room (V&A Museum), Walter George papers, GeW/1/9, p. 1: Walter George to Anne Shearer, 14 March 1952.