The Residency, Lucknow: through the lens of Soumitro Ghosh
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The Residency, Lucknow: through the lens of Soumitro Ghosh

Soumitro Ghosh revisits The Residency in Lucknow, to find himself immersed in a unique experience – of placing himself within the historical context of the ruins.

by Soumitro Ghosh Sep 04, 2019

I visited The Residency in Lucknow this year after three decades - little of the ruins had obviously changed, but I still saw it differently. Time had altered the way I was now absorbing the ruin. I was imagining it as a home that was lived in – the life in the past, before it became a ruin.

The land, the landscape, and the peripheral wall of the definite precinct were the same and yet no longer the same. The world within and the world outside had changed long ago - with the definitive moment when The Residency was attacked amidst the political shift of power.

The buildings now feel porous, without the roofs the columns feel taller, the outer walls catch the setting sun’s light while the inner room walls seem to miss its warmth, except the sunlight that enters from the arched openings. The uneasy silent entry of this light is now through absent doors, windows, fallen roofs and walls.

With the ravages of time and history, ageing ruins the structures, becoming much like the human body - skeletal and soulful. Now the lime plaster is gone and so is the embellishment. Now the meticulous construction in brick is seen clearly, for us to understand its anatomy.

The beautiful preservation of the mosque within the precinct uses almost orthopaedic methods. The metal cage compressing the minaret for stability and longevity. The beauty of the old remains and so does the inventiveness of a later time, and very apparent. 

The Residency is located in the city of Lucknow in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Also commonly known as the British Residency or Residency Complex, it is a group of several buildings constructed between 1780 and 1800 AD, which once served as the residence for the British Resident General, a representative of the British in the court of the Nawab (the native governor).

The Residency was subject to the Siege of Lucknow between July 1, 1857 and November 17, 1857, during the great Indian Rebellion of 1857 against the British rule, after which it was left in ruins.

(All images by Soumitro Ghosh)

Stiffening the mosque minaret with a set of mild steel rings and tension rods | The Residency| Lucknow| Soumitro Ghosh| STIR
Stiffening the mosque minaret with a set of mild steel rings and tension rods
A view of another world, a sacred precinct through a colonial frame | The Residency| Lucknow| Soumitro Ghosh| STIR
A view of another world, a sacred precinct through a colonial frame
Stucco and ornament are deeper than its depth | The Residency| Lucknow| Soumitro Ghosh| STIR
Stucco and ornament are deeper than its depth
The inner skin and the shell are integrally related for each nuance| The Residency| Lucknow| Soumitro Ghosh| STIR
The inner skin and the shell are integrally related for each nuance
Symmetry has its own strength and fallen roofs change the sense of space to another direction | The Residency| Lucknow| Soumitro Ghosh| STIR
Symmetry has its own strength and fallen roofs change the sense of space to another direction
A streetscape of a colonnade and an arched bay create rich moments in the mind of lives and moments of the past| The Residency| Lucknow| Soumitro Ghosh| STIR
A streetscape of a colonnade and an arched bay create rich moments in the mind of lives and moments of the past
Ruins at times are more poetic when all that we have is fragments and its constructions unlimited| The Residency| Lucknow| Soumitro Ghosh| STIR
Ruins at times are more poetic when all that we have is fragments and its constructions unlimited
The ruin now is a part of the landscape that it so desired to be with| The Residency| Lucknow| Soumitro Ghosh| STIR
The ruin now is a part of the landscape that it so desired to be with
Axial frames have continual depth | The Residency| Lucknow| Soumitro Ghosh| STIR
Axial frames have continual depth
The raw brickwork looks from one time and the stucco remnants of another one, each rich with algae| The Residency| Lucknow| Soumitro Ghosh| STIR
The raw brickwork looks from one time and the stucco remnants of another one, each rich with algae
The isolation of building elements into free standing frames, in a state of ruin creates a new focus on the proportions, surface and the beauty of structural patterns in brickwork| The Residency| Lucknow| Soumitro Ghosh| STIR
The isolation of building elements into free standing frames, in a state of ruin creates a new focus on the proportions, surface and the beauty of structural patterns in brickwork
When layers of the building interior become bare to the outside without their stucco skin and stone treads, there is a new state of consequence | The Residency| Lucknow| Soumitro Ghosh| STIR
When layers of the building interior become bare to the outside without their stucco skin and stone treads, there is a new state of consequence

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About Author

Soumitro Ghosh

Soumitro Ghosh

An alumnus of CEPT Ahmedabad, he joined Mathew and Ghosh Architects, a partnership founded by Nisha Mathew Ghosh, in 1995. His projects range from urban and research to architecture and interiors. Ghosh has been recognised for his work through several awards and publications, been a part of various public and institutional forums and has exhibited his works in and outside India. He has also worked with the likes of BV Doshi and Neelkanth Chaaya among others.

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