This list entry was subject to a Minor Enhancement on 09/02/2018
No.41 Indian YMCA
YMCA Indian Students Union and hostel. 1952 with 1960s addition to Grafton Street. By Ralph Tubbs. Reinforced concrete; red brick; Portland stone cladding. Roof mostly flat, but with curved feature at the corner.
EXTERIOR: five main storeys, plus roof features and basement. Seven bays. Red brick walling above ground floor level, which is glazed with expressed circular pilotis. First floor has continuous band of windows, broken by two projecting screen walls towards the centre and by a recessed balcony of one bay. Metal-framed windows. Two storeys above with individually expressed square windows, and level above with recessed paired windows behind expressed concrete box-like framing. Roof with two irregular, projecting pavilions to warden's flat and rectangular prayer room with semi-domical roof. Later return block linked by means of a recessed glazed link, with a flush brick wall containing entrance at ground floor level. Elevation in similar idiom, in brick, with slightly projecting individual windows and larger first-floor recessed windows, above a slightly recessed ground floor.
INTERIOR: multi-storey entrance foyer to west end of the original block, leading to spacious multi-level staircase, set out on the diagonal, and pivotting visually on a single circular piloti, which rises the full height of the staircase into a curved canopy. The basement contains the galleried Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hall; dining room at ground floor level with mezzanine and lounges and reading areas at first floor level; individual study bedrooms above. On the roof is the warden's flat and a prayer room.
A well-designed early post-war building with adventurous internal spaces.
The Indian YMCA was founded in London in 1920 by KT Paul, the first Indian-born General Secretary of the National Council of the YMCAs of India. Paul recognised the need for a social and cultural centre for young Indians studying in London, and opened the first student hostel in ‘Shakespeare Hut’, Bloomsbury, built during the First World War as a refuge for travelling soldiers. In 1923 the hostel moved to new premises on Gower Street, and over the course of the following 20 years served as an important venue for meetings, lectures and debates around the issue of Indian Independence from Britain, which culminated in the Indian Independence Act of 1947. The Gower Street building was damaged in the Second World War, and temporary premises were provided by the University of London. Compensation for relocation from Gower Street, and a grant from the War Damages Commission funded a new, purpose-built facility on a plot on Fitzroy Square. The foundation stone was laid by VK Krishna Menon, a key figure in the India League and the campaign for Independence, who became the first Indian High Commissioner to the UK, and the building was opened in 1953 by his successor, BG Kher; Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, visited in the same year. The Mahatma Ghandi Memorial Hall has served as a venue for high-profile cultural and political events since the building was established, including, amongst others, the India League’s twentieth Republic Day anniversary event in 1970, at which Krishna Menon spoke. A commemorative bust of Krishna Menon was erected in Fitzroy Square in 1977, but was stolen, twice.
Listing NGR: TQ2921882067