Gustav Herman Krumbiegel (b.1865-d.1956) was the man whose magical touch transformed Mysore and Bangalore into charming garden cities. His last resting place is in Bangalore, beneath an African tulip tree. The once-forgotten grave of this horticulturist and architect was recently given a facelift on the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary.
Born in Germany, Dr. Krumbiegel underwent training in horticulture and later joined the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in the United Kingdom. It was during his association with the Kew Gardens that his name was suggested to Sayajirao Gaekwad, the Maharaja of Baroda, who was in search of a capable horticulturist. The Maharaja entrusted Dr. Krumbiegel with the task of designing his Ooty estate. While working on the project Dr. Krumbiegel was introduced to Krishnaraja Wodeyar, Maharaja of Mysore, who persuaded him to join Mysore State service in 1908 as the Curator of Botanical Gardens at Lalbagh. Later Dr. Krumbiegel was elevated to the post of Director of Horticulture and after 25 years of service, retired in 1932 as Economic Botanist to Government (Mysore). After retirement he settled down in Bangalore as ‘Landscape Adviser’ to Mysore State.
Further South, the erstwhile princely state of Travancore was undergoing many changes under the rule of Chithira Tirunal Bala Rama Varma, who came to the throne in 1931. As part of infrastructure development and beautification of Thiruvananthapuram, the Town Planning Department sought the assistance of Dr. Krumbiegel in 1932. Dr. Krumbiegel’s reputation as a master horticulturist and town planner and his association with the Mysore royalty might be the reason why his name was suggested in the first place. Moreover, it is probable that Chithira Tirunal, during his stay in Bangalore for administrative training (1930-31), might have had gathered first-hand information on the work of Dr. Krumbiegel.
In his proposal for Thiruvananthapuram, Dr. Krumbiegel stressed on the need for beautification of the township and its iconic structures. He also aligned and designed approach roads to Kanakakunnu and Vellayambalam palaces. The gardens in the State Guest House and Cliff House, as well as the realignment of some of the roads were proposed by him.
A careful survey of the city roads was carried out in 1932 and measures were proposed for its improvement by Dr. Krumbiegel. He advised the government to demolish the old mud walls ( kayyala ) lining either side of the Kowdiar-Vellayambalam road, in order to construct the more stable and aesthetically appealing boundary walls that we see today. Krumbiegel, as a first step towards the implementation of his proposal, worked on the stretch between Kowdiar palace gate and Vellayambalam junction. The beautifully designed Kowdiar Avenue Road was formally inaugurated in 1945. Later, Dr. Krumbiegel’s expertise was sought after by the government in the preparation of Thampanoor Valley, Pangode and Vellayambalam-Mascot Hotel Roads. Dr. Krumbiegel, in his proposal for a Marina road, advised the government to establish a direct road along the coastal line, connecting Sangumugham and Kovalam.
In 1933, during his stay in Thiruvananthapuram, Dr. Krumbiegel prepared designs for the extension of Kowdiar palace complex and the Tennis Pavilion. In order to improve the quality of open spaces, he advised the government to develop Puttarikandam into a public park and brought it under a Town Planning Scheme.
It is unfortunate that Dr. Krumbiegel, despite his contributions to the beautification of Thiruvananthapuram, still remains relatively unknown to the public.