The Forgotten Architect

Few people know that many structures in the city were designed by a German

Published: 22nd December 2014 06:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd December 2014 06:03 AM   |  A+A-

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BASAVANAGUDI:  The pavilion at the centre of the M N Krishna Rao Park is a structure I have been observing for more than three decades now. Most of my childhood was  spent in playing around this grand edifice with its outlandish dome and I always pondered who might have been the architect of this building.

The architect was Otto H. Königsberger, a German of Jewish descent.  Königsberger was appointed the chief architect and planner to Mysore State, India in 1939 by Dewan Sir Mirza Ismail. The other notable buildings designed by him during that period include a  few structures in the Indian Institute of Science(IISC), the Kalasipalyam bus stand, Serum Institute of India Ltd and Victory Hall.  I had referred to his book, Manual of Tropical Housing and Building: Climatic design’ in my architecture school days and yet not known about him. All that changed when I met  Scottish architect, Dr Rachel Lee last year who was here to  research Königsberger’s works.

This pavilion, as I had mentioned in an earlier piece,  was constructed with the funds donated by M N Krishna Rao himself. Later on, it served as a school, a gymnasium, an office for a movie stunt performer’s organization, etc. In fact in 1947, the army which was stationed inside the park even occupied the first floor of the pavilion. Today this building has been lying vacant for the past couple of years. Descendants of the Dewan want the building to be converted into a memorial. They propose to have a reading room or library in a part of the ground floor and want to utilize the rest of the area to set up a charitable health centre for the needy. They want to donate the relics and other awards of M N Krishna Rao and set up a museum dedicated to him on the first floor. I hope that BBMP helps them in their noble mission at the earliest and that they also erect a statue or a stone plaque which acknowledges the contribution of a forgotten architect.

An excerpt  from Dr Rachel Lee’s papers:

Krishna Rao Pavilion  was not included in either of Königsberger’s  portfolios or CVs and, apart from a few loose black and white photographs, his archive contains no information about it. However, the foundation stone states that building work was underway in November 1940, marking it as a design that was made under Dewan Sir M. Ismail’s rule.

Based on an octagonal plan, the two-storey masonry building is surmounted by a single large  segmented dome. In contrast to the massive appearance of the dome and the octagonal barrel of the building’s body, the thin protruding eaves that express the flat roof seem incongruous.

A combination of porticos on three sides and recessed porticos on a further two provide ground floor access and covered external spaces, while a pair of external stairs lead up to the first floor gallery.          

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