Lutyens and I

by Tanya Kumar

With the Lutyens Trust scholarship under my belt, I set off for England to meet Sir Edwin Lutyens. Having grown up in his city, Delhi, I was eager to see him in his own land.

The Lutyens Trust along with the Charles Wallace India Trust (CWIT) and The National Trust had put together a most interesting eight-week plan for me. I was to study two of the biggest conservation projects currently happening in England – Castle Drogo and Knole — which involved me spending a fortnight at each project’s architect’s office and at each property. I began at the Inskip & Jenkins office in central London. They are the architects to the Castle Drogo project and I got to study and understand the various steps involved in doing the actual work – from the conservation management plan to detailed working drawings with each stone clearly described in detail.

Richard Alford of the CWIT came over to see how I was doing and Martin Lutyens of The Lutyens Trust took me on a whirlwind tour of some of Lutyens’s famous and not-so-famous designs in London. It was fascinating to finally meet Sir Edwin in his land. On my way to Devon and Castle Drogo, Sarah Staniforth of The National Trust invited me for lunch and gave me a guided tour of Cheltenham Spa.

Then it was on to Castle Drogo itself. Not only is its site, design and execution completely fascinating, but the passion for the place among the people there is truly inspiring. For the current works to be carried out, the entire property has been turned ‘inside out’, reorganised and special interpretations implemented. These installations are quite something on their own too. All in all, my Castle Drogo stay was quite a treat; especially as I was pleasantly surprised to get a bit of publicity in the Exeter Express & Echo too!

My next fortnight was spent in the Leamington Spa office of Rodney Melville & Partners, architects to the Knole project. They are a large firm with the different partners all expert at different types of projects. So much to learn from them all!

Lastly I worked at Knole, where among other things, I managed to get myself locked-alone time! Moreover, I was extremely honoured as I was also able to meet Lord Sackville’s mother who is too delightful for words.

To round off my stay, Martin and Richard magnanimously hosted a dinner for me along with Charles Lutyens.

All in all, it was a most wonderful experience and need I mention a most memorable one! I was welcomed with open arms by one and all. I have learned lots and am now itching to implement some ideas here. I thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for giving me this opportunity to be on this adventure. I hope this collaboration between the two countries and Lutyens’s heritage carries on.

Postscript: Tanya Kumar is a conservation architect based in Delhi. Since Tanya’s return to India, she has put her experience to good use working with The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) on conservation projects in Delhi.