Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel, a German horticulturalist, consultant architect and town planner, was responsible for the conceptualization and creation of many iconic structures and gardens in Karnataka and other states in the country. During his 24-year career, between 1908 and 1932, as superintendent of public gardens and director of horticulture in Karnataka, he carried out several innovative works in Bengaluru, Mysuru and other cities. He is remembered above all as the person who gave an aesthetic touch to the magnificent gardens of Lalbagh. He is also credited with bringing professionalism to the horticultural, landscaping and town planning trades in the state. He was the first president of the Mysore Horticultural Society, which he founded in 1912.
the gardener of the maharaja
GH Krumbiegel was born in 1865 in Lohmen near Dresden in Germany. After initial training in horticulture in Germany, Krumbiegel joined the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, UK. Later he worked under the Maharaja of Baroda as curator of the Royal Botanic 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 superintendent of the government gardens of the princely city of Mysore.
Krumbiegel was 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 to director of horticulture in the princely state of Mysore, where he served until his retirement in 1932. Krumbiegel gave an aesthetic touch to the surroundings of Mysore Palace. Among his works of national significance are the Brindavan Gardens at Krishna Raja Sagar (KRS) Reservoir near Mysuru. After the dam was built on the Cauvery River in the 1920s, Krumbiegel was given the responsibility of developing a beautiful garden on the site. He prepared the landscape plan on the Charbagh concept (quadrangular garden). Using water from the dam, the garden was designed and executed in an aesthetic way. 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 consultant architect, he has designed numerous structures in Bangalore and other cities in the state. The current office of the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike is one such structure designed by him. He had conceived the idea of ââfounding a horticultural college in Lalbagh in the 1920s. He even designed the structure of the college. The Mysore government, although it did not approve the college, authorized construction of the building. He changed the plan and built a veranda for houseplants.
The central hall of this artistic building is quite spacious with large windows and doors to the front and back. The hall is covered at the top of a high pyramidal roof. The roof is topped with a dome that lets sunlight into the interior. The building has been in good condition since its construction in 1920, with the exception of the roof of the central hall. The glass shield was replaced with a two-layer cladding of zinc sheet and ocher-colored tiles in 1927. This change was made to convert it into Krumbiegel’s office, who then received the additional task of an architect -advice.
The building now houses the offices of the Directorate of the Horticultural Department. The majestic building is a classic example of Krumbiegel’s architectural ingenuity. The vast facade of the building is arranged to adapt to the oval-shaped garden (also called the garden of statues). The oval-shaped garden with four quadrangles cut by paths has been laid out on the spot. It was Krumbiegel’s idea to plant exotic flowering trees, which bloom in different seasons, along the edges of the aisles to ensure that at least one variety blooms throughout the year. He also planned tree-lined avenues of the city under this concept of “serial bloom”.
Krumbiegel embellished the promenade of Lalbagh’s glass house and gave it a formal form. In the process, he erected artistic street lights with wreaths in the shape of flowers at four points in the promenade. These floor lamps were designed by Krumbiegel and were cast in wrought iron by a company from Chennai.
Bengaluru had the rare privilege of hosting a civic reception for Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in 1919. The ceremony was held in Lalbagh.
Krumbiegel had planned to sanctify the place where Tagore sat in Lalbagh and he did so in his innovative way by designing an artistic tum. The Lalbagh Museum was also designed and built by Krumbiegel. It is an elegant building with curved lines, located at the northeast corner of Lalbagh. The entire building is symmetrical in shape with a raised tiled roof covering from above and a false ceiling from below.
Later, perhaps in the 1950s, the museum was moved elsewhere and since then it has been used for office purposes. A rustic but ornamental building stands as a silent witness to Lalbagh’s colonial glory. It is called the Lecture Hall – so named because lectures on horticulture and landscaping were held there for students of various colleges until the 1960s. The building was not designed by Krumbiegel, but the school he founded operated here. It was named after Krumbiegel in the 1990s.
If the Bangalore Palace garden was designed by J Cameron, Krumbiegel gave it a new look by integrating fountains, plinths, arches. It merged in symbiosis a fruit garden, a fern, an interior garden, avenues and boulevards to develop it into a complete palace orchard. He also developed the Queen’s Corner garden in Cubbon Park, near the statues of Queen Victoria and King Edward. He embellished the garden with an alley formation of pole trees (Polyalthia longifolia) on both sides. The year 1927 saw the completion of 25 years of Krishna Raja Wadiyar’s reign.
The building of beautifully designed circles in towns and villages was among the many activities organized to celebrate the occasion. These circles with eight artistic pillars, four large and four short, were designed by Krumbiegel. Bangalore’s famous Krishna Rajendra (KR Circle) is one such circle designed during the period.
It was Krumbiegel who designed the Raj Ghat Garden in Delhi. He was approaching 90 when he started the project. He did this very meticulously by incorporating lawns into the hilly ground. Even after his retirement, Krumbiegel was appointed advisor to the Maharaja of Mysore for landscaping and town planning. Its services are requested by the town halls to develop parks, village squares, shelters and mausoleums. The belvedere, rather mausoleum, in the Kolar Silver Jubilee Park was also designed by him. Recognizing Krumbiegel’s contributions, the Republic Day Flower Show 2016 in Lalbagh was dedicated to him.