Legacy of a landscaping pioneer

Legacy of a landscaping pioneer

green imprints

Legacy of a landscaping pioneer

Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel, a German horticulturist, consulting architect and town planner, was responsible for the conceptualisation and creation of many landmark structures and gardens in Karnataka and other states of the country. During his 24-year career, between 1908 and 1932, as the superintendent of government gardens and the director of horticulture in Karnataka, he executed several innovative works in Bengaluru, Mysuru and other towns. He is mostly remembered as the person who gave an aesthetic touch to the beautiful gardens of Lalbagh. He is also credited with bringing professionalism to the avocations of horticulture, landscaping and town planning in the State. He was the first chairman of the Mysore Horticultural Society, which he founded in 1912.

Maharaja’s gardener

G H Krumbiegel was born in 1865 in Lohmen near Dresden in Germany. After undergoing initial training in horticulture in Germany, Krumbiegel joined the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew in the United Kingdom. Later he worked under the Maharaja of Baroda as the curator of the royal botanical gardens. He worked there from 1893 to 1907. By then, he had gained experience in gardening and was one of the most sought after gardeners. In 1908, he was appointed as the superintendent of government gardens in princely Mysore.

Krumbiegel served as the superintendent of gardens, which included Lalbagh, Cubbon Park, Palace Gardens and Sunkal farm in Bengaluru and Curzon Park, Lalitha Mahal Garden and University Gardens in Mysuru from 1908 to 1928. Later he was promoted as the director of horticulture in the princely state of Mysore, where he served till he retired in 1932. Krumbiegel gave an aesthetic touch to the surroundings of Mysore Palace. Among his works of national importance are the Brindavan Gardens at the Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) Reservoir near Mysuru. Once the dam was built across River Cauvery in the 1920s, Krumbiegel was given the responsibility of developing a beautiful garden at the site. He prepared the landscape plan on the concept Charbagh (quadrangle garden). Utilising the water from the dam, the garden was aesthetically conceived and executed. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Asia.

Krumbiegel was a man of many talents.  As a town planner and consulting architect, he designed many structures in Bengaluru and other towns of the State. The present office of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike is one such structure designed by him. He had conceived the idea of starting a horticulture college in Lalbagh in the 1920s. He had even designed the structure of the college. The Government of Mysore, though did not approve the college, permitted the construction of the building. He modified the plan and built an indoor plant conservatory.

The central hall of this artistic building is quite spacious with wide windows and doors on the front and back sides. The hall is covered at top with high pyramidal roof. The roof is surmounted by a dome which allows sun light inside. The building is in a good condition since its construction in 1920, except for the roof of the central hall. The glass shield was replaced by a two-layered covering of zinc sheet and ochre-coloured tiles in 1927. This change was done to convert it as the office accommodation of Krumbiegel, who was then given the additional task of a consulting architect.

The building now accommodates the offices of the Directorate of Horticultural Department. The majestic building stands out as a classic example for the architectural ingenuity of Krumbiegel. The vast frontage of the building is landscaped to suit the oval-shaped garden (also known as statue garden). The oval-shaped garden with four quadrangles intersected by pathways was developed at the place. It was Krumbiegel’s idea to plant exotic flowering trees, which bloom in different seasons, along the borders of pathways to ensure that at least one variety is in bloom throughout the year. He also planned tree-lined avenues of the City under this concept of ‘serial blossoming’.

Krumbiegel beautified the promenade of Lalbagh’s glass house and gave a formal shape to it. In the process he erected artistic lamp posts with flower-shaped crowns at four points of the promenade. These lamp posts were designed by Krumbiegel and were cast in wrought iron by a company in Chennai.

Bengaluru had the rare privilege of hosting a civic reception to Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in the year 1919. The ceremony was organised in Lalbagh.

Krumbiegel planned to sanctify the location where Tagore sat in Lalbagh and he did it in his own innovative way by designing an artistic tum. The Lalbagh museum was also designed and built by Krumbiegel. It is an elegant building with curved features, situated at the north-east corner of Lalbagh. The entire building is symmetrical in shape with an elevated roof of tiles covering from above and a false ceiling from below.

Later, perhaps in the 1950s, the museum was shifted elsewhere and since then it has been used for office purposes. A rustic but ornamental building stands as a mute witness to the colonial glory of Lalbagh. It is called the lecture hall — so named, because lectures on horticulture and landscaping were organised here for  students from different colleges until the 1960s. The building was not designed by Krumbiegel, but the school started by him functioned here. It was named after Krumbiegel in the 1990s.

Though the garden of Bangalore Palace was designed by J Cameron, Krumbiegel gave a new look to it by integrating fountains, pedestals, arches. He symbiotically merged fruit garden, fernery, indoor garden, avenues and boulevards to develop it into a comprehensive palace orchard garden. He also developed the garden at the Queen’s Corner in Cubbon Park, near the statues of Queen Victoria and King Edward. He embellished the garden with a formation of an avenue of mast (Polyalthia longifolia) trees on both sides. Year 1927 saw the completion of 25 years of Krishna Raja Wadiyar’s rule.

Construction of beautifully-designed circles in towns and villages were among the many activities that were organised to celebrate the occasion. These circles with eight artistic pillars, four tall and four short, were designed by Krumbiegel. The famous Krishna Rajendra Circle (K R Circle) of Bengaluru is one such circle designed during the period.

It was Krumbiegel who designed the Raj Ghat garden in Delhi. He was nearing 90 when he took up the project. He did it very meticulously by incorporating lawns in the undulating ground. Even after his retirement, Krumbiegel was appointed as the advisor to the Maharaja of Mysore for landscaping and town planning. His services were sought by the town municipal offices to develop parks, village squares, shelters, and mausoleums. The gazebo, rather mausoleum, in the Silver Jubilee Park of Kolar was also designed by him. Acknowledging the contributions of Krumbiegel, the 2016 Republic Day Flower Show at Lalbagh has been dedicated to him.