Punjab High Court

As you proceed southeast on Upper Mall road, another splendid building, the Punjab High Court presents itself. Set well back from the road, this formidable imperial structure was built to underscore the importance that the erstwhile rulers of the subcontinent accorded to law and justice.

In 1866 a modest chief court for the Punjab was established, though by the late 1870s, the need for a special Court building had become evident. The location and design of the new building were finalized subsequently and foundations laid during 1882-83. Due to a paucity of funds construction work was stalled for some time. Although the court began to function in the new building in late 1887, the building was finally completed in 1889 at a cost of Rs. 419,724.

Contemporary accounts describe the design of the building as 'Indo-Saracenic' and correctly predicted that it would turn out to be a significant architectural ornament of the province. No doubt 19th century historian Latif expressed the sentiments of Lahorites when he noted that the building harmonized "admirably with the ancient monuments, history, and atmosphere of Lahore."

Following the trend of Anglo-Mughal architecture that was sweeping the subcontinent at the time, the Chief Court was among the first major Anglo-Mughal structures in the Punjab—others being Kipling's Mayo School of Art, the Lahore Museum  and Aitchison College. In view of the pressure of nationalist movements and the interest of Lord Napier, Governor of Madras (1866-1872), in the architecture of the Muslim world, Madras became the first city to acquire an 'Indo-Saracenic' building, namely R.F. Chisholm's University Senate House (1874-79). Thus it is not surprising to find Latif attributing the design to "Brossington, a skillful architect," likely to be J.W. Brassington, consulting architect of Madras.

The building has a courtyard with a fountain as its central feature creating an oasis for counteracting the intense heat of the Punjab. The east and west wings of similar architectural character flank the central block, augmenting its impressive facade by forming a 'U' forecourt. Interestingly, at the time arrangement was also made for carriages to enter the inner courtyard, through an entrance in the south wing, close to the English and Persian record rooms.

Set in generous grounds, the majestic High Court dominates this stretch of Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam (the Upper Mall). Handsomely proportioned the building profile is terminated with pitched roofs and gable ends. The central part is accented with a high porch, behind which rise two bastion-like 95' tall towers, which incorporate central fluted portions modeled after the Qutub Minar at Delhi, and terminated with corner kiosks topped with white marble cupolas on the pattern of Mughal domed kiosks. The central gable-like front, which spans the space between two massive towers, carries the emblem of justice, the tarazoo (scales of justice), carved in white marble and set within exposed brick masonry. The roof edge is surmounted by an arcaded curtain wall of white Nowshera marble.

The structure is built of neatly laid brick masonry, with cornices and projections etc. composed of specially molded bricks. The white Nowshera marble is employed to add a dramatic accent to the pink brick hue in the form of cupolas, elegant arcading, edgings to arched openings, and finely carved lattice for filtering the strong sunlight of the Punjab. The combination of white Nowshera marble and molded brickwork was also popularized by Kipling, as witnessed in Lahore Museum.

Although no longer extant, the enormous space between the High Court building and the main road was once dominated by a bronze statue of Lord John Lawrence, the first Lt. Governor of the Punjab.

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