Within the sweeping halls and rooms of the Lal Bagh Palace in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, the world falls away and time stands still. Once a seat of the Holkar family, one of the most powerful Maratha rulers of India, the structure’s construction began in the late 19th century, and was completed in 1926 by Tukojirao Holkar III, who lived in the palace until his death in 1978. In the decades since, as the royals left and the palace was converted into a museum, the structure fell into disrepair: the roofs leaked, the paint peeled off, and a fire ravaged the top floor.
Then four years ago, AD100 architect Abha Narain Lambah, along with directors Kruti Garg and Krishna Iyer, stepped in to peel away the ravages of time and restore the palace to its former glory—with support from the Madhya Pradesh Department of Archaeology and the World Monuments Fund. Lambah and her team of restoration architects are no strangers to scrupulous research. Over her decades-long career, she has worked with village councils, royal families, and government bodies to restore historical architecture. She braved sub-zero temperatures to restore the Maitreya temples—15th-century mud structures—in Basgo, Ladakh, (which earned her firm an award of excellence from the UNESCO Asia-Pacific awards for conservation) and revived the iconic Royal Opera House and 137-year-old Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue, both in Mumbai. Understanding the workings of time and carefully rolling back its effects is Lambah’s métier.
Lal Bagh Palace is a restoration story that won the firm a spot on AD’s global 2022 WOW list. For the first time ever, the international editors of Architectural Digest jointly curated a list of 20 ‘Works of Wonder’ from around the world, and Lal Bagh Palace has been deservedly recognized for the new life that Lambah and her firm have breathed in to the historical monument.