Forest Research Institute’s British Architecture – A Photo Tour

FRI : Central Courtyard

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One of the many British monuments of India and a prestigious institute that has been synonymous with Dehradun for over a century is the British architecture-inspired, massive, Forest Research Institute and its lush expansive campus. A must-visit-place in Dehradun.

I personally believe, this is the only place in Doon valley that hasn’t seen much of a change over the years since Dehradun was catapulted as the capital of Uttarakhand.

My very first visit to the Forest Research Institute (FRI), a couple of decades back, made me fall in love with this campus. Thanks to my maternal uncle who introduced me to this wonderful institute and its museums, that rekindled in me an interest in life sciences. So much so, that I opted for Biology as one of my subjects of study in junior college and saw future prospects in it by opting for applied sciences in my graduation.

This post explores this British monument in India apart from deciphering its British architecture. If you are here looking for details of the various courses that the Forest Research institute offers, then kindly visit the official website of the FRI.

Without wasting much time, let me quickly take you on a virtual photo tour of the sprawling estate of the Forest Research Institute and the FRI building.

Forest Research Institute (FRI) Dehradun – One of the finest examples of British architecture in India 

I have always been in awe of FRI’s architecture, a fine example of British architecture in India, and also one of the often ignored historical buildings in India.

During a recent trip to an event conducted by IndiBlogger at Dehradun, I squeezed some time out of my busy schedule to visit the Forest Research Institute and fall in love with its architecture. I am glad the complex is being maintained scrupulously, thanks to its status as one of the important national heritage buildings in India. 

It was a misty and cloudy morning on the day we visited the Forest Research Institute complex. The sun graced us, as we entered the building and loitered along the beautiful corridors. Nature blessed us with a short spell of rain while we were in awe of the main entrance near the convocation hall. All this in a span of 90mins that we spent inside the building. Thus, the photographs in this post reflect varying hues of bricks and the FRI building, owing to the peekaboo of sun and the canopy of grey clouds!

FRI: A scintillating British monument in India

Situated amidst lush greenery in a sprawling estate of almost 450 hectares, the Forest Research Institute’s colonial building designed along the lines of British architecture is spell-binding.

With the Himalayas as a backdrop, this finest of the British monuments in India presents its visitors with a perfect travel postcard from Dehradun. I am sure it looks spectacular with snow-covered peaks on a bright sunny day during the Winters.

Forest Research Institute's Architecture
The scintillating Forest Research Institute

The estate inside the FRI campus

We drove from the frontal entrance of the campus to the back and caught a glimpse of the beautiful estate, dotted with colonial cottages, that serve as the present-day homes of various instructors and forest officers of the Forest Research Institute. These snaps were captured from the comforts of our car as it was drizzling.

An officer’s guest house right at the back entrance of the FRI with its red-brick facade and chimneys popping out of the hip roof definitely looked like a dream and straight out of a British novel!

FRI : Cottages

FRI : Officer's Guest House
A guest house inside the Forest Research Institute campus

The mini forest inside the Forest Research Institute campus

The FRI campus is also home to a mini forest and I was immediately transported to the various cantonment areas we have lived in. It is a perfect idea to take a stroll along these canopied roads with trees lined in an array!

FRI: Forest

Forest Research Institute and its British architecture

The main parking and the ticket counters are on the eastern side/back of the FRI building. Since we had no time for a tour of the museums and wanted to just visit the FRI for its architecture, we visited the place between 8:30-10:00 AM.

Forest Research Institute's Architecture

The history of Dehradun Forest Research Institute 

The FRI actually began as a small forest school at Dehradun in 1878 to impart training to forest rangers. This school, which was taken over by the central government in 1884 and named the Imperial Forest School, formed the nucleus of the present FRI. The history of the FRI is synonymous with the evolution and development of scientific forestry not only in India but also in the entire sub-continent.

Forest Research Institute's Architecture : Corridor
Nostalgia inducing corridors of the forest research institute

Understanding the Forest Research Institute’s Colonial Architecture

Styled and designed as a hybrid architecture of Greek, Roman, and Colonial influences by C.G. Blomfield, the main building of the Forest Research Institute was inaugurated in 1929 by the then Viceroy Willingdon. The FRI building is said to have taken seven years to complete and the cost was a whopping sum of about Rs90 lakh of those days!

Forest Research Institute's Architecture : Inner courtyard

Blomfield had earlier worked with Edwin Lutyens on many projects in Delhi. Thus, the Lutyens’ touch to the Forest Research Institute’s architecture cannot be missed. In fact, I would say that the courtyards are archetypal of Indian and Oriental architecture, too. It is well known that apart from the Roman architects, the former architects also exhibited a penchant for central courtyards. The wall-less porticos are archetypal of the Roman architecture building plans.

Forest Research Institute's Architecture : Portico

The windows on the ground floor are huge and the ones on the first floor are smaller – a typical feature of colonial architecture. This is distinctly visible from the inner courtyards. Have a look at the picture below!

Forest Research Institute's Architecture: Central Courtyard

Coherent symmetry inside the FRI – A hallmark of British Architecture

A distinct aspect of the British architecture was the wood and brick interiors that were often aligned in symmetrical and rational layout. This is again is a distinct aspect of the FRI interiors. Also, the arcaded and airy corridors radiate the Classical architectural form.

Forest Research Institute's Architecture : Corridors

There are six central courtyards, surrounded by wide corridors on all sides. These open to various museums, washrooms and official rooms.

Forest Research Institute's Architecture : Corridors

The FRI building houses six museums around its courtyards

  • The Social Forestry Museum
  •  Pathology Museum
  •  Silviculture Museum
  •  Timber Museum
  • N.W.F.P. Museum and
  • The Entomology Museum.
Forest Research Institute's Architecture
British Architecture in India

The FRI is said to be the only humongous structure in the world made entirely of bricks, at one time. The bricks and mortar used in the Forest Research Institute’s Architecture are arranged in repetitive patterns, accentuated and punctuated by moulding strips.

FRI : Travel blog

FRI Courtyards

The drain pipes look rust-free and intact. I am not sure if we get such quality pipes any longer!

Forest Research Institute

Forest Research Institute Travel blog

The main facade of the building is said to be almost 1,000 ft long.

FRI Facade

Wheat and other food crops are said to have been grown in front of the main FRI building, during the Second World War. I am sure the golden crop would have added its own hues to the Forest Research Institute’s architecture.

Forest Research Institute Blog

Did you know: It snowed in Dehradun in the year 1945 and the FRI premises had 3” of snowfall.

Dehradun Forest Research Institute's Architecture

The play of light and shadow owing to the hide-seek of the sun and a light rain brought out different hues of the brick facade. The sun was behind the tower when capturing the above picture.

Whereas, the below picture looks vibrant with red bricks due to the sunlight kissing the surface of the structure!

Dehradun Forest Research Institute's Architecture

Domed towers on both sides flank the central entrance /portico. The entrance leads to the Convocation hall with beautiful and elegant wooden interiors. Inside the Forest Research Institute campus is the Indira Gandhi National Forest Academy (IGNFA). This is the staff college that trains officers selected for the Indian Forest Service (IFS). But, the convocation hall is inside the main FRI building.

FRI : Forest Research Institute at Dehradun

The pediment is again very typical of the classical architecture.

However, the triangular area enclosed inside the pediment known as the tympanum is plain and devoid of elaborate patterns.

Instead, some of them have an oval-shaped vent, covered with glass. I am sure a person with deep knowledge and mastery over various architectures would have shown an avid interest in the nuances of the Forest Research Institute’s architecture.His/Her explanation would be much more detailed.

Whereas, this photo tour is just through the lens of an avid lover of architecture!! 

Forest Research Institute's Architecture: Back Entrance

Few pointers to capture the elements of British architecture at FRI

  • A bright sunny day is ideal to capture perfect photos of Forest Research Institute’s Architecture. Preferably, either during the sunset or just after sunrise!
  • The picturesque campus, buildings, and the Forest Research Institute’s architecture have been a backdrop in various Indian movies like – Student of the Year,  Rehnaa Hai Terre Dil Mein, Paan Singh Tomar, Nanban, Krishna Cottage et al.
  • Apart from the courtyards, the fascinating places to capture the photographs are the corridors!

Just as we were at the exit and I was capturing the corridor with a bench, the sun-God graciously blessed us by filling the otherwise dark corridors of the Forest Research Institute with shafts of rays that imparted an orangish hue. Bliss!

Forest Research Institute's Architecture : Corridor

Travel responsibly

I love visiting such monumental structures of a bygone era. These visits help us to appreciate the existential connection between architectural forms of the present with the past. So, let us not litter around on the premises when visiting.

As we discuss responsible tourism, do read all about in the blog-post Carbon Offsetting- Everything you need to know

In fact, during a stroll in the forest of FRI, I was appreciating the futuristic thinking of the architects in providing well laid out floodwater drains across the estate and peeped into one. And, what I found was appalling!

Forest Research Institute Responsible Travel

I leave you with this thought of being responsible for our environs and a few more photographs of the beautiful Forest Research Institute of Dehradun and its immaculate British Architecture.

Forest Research Institute's Architecture
A fine example of British architecture in India

Forest Research Institute's Architecture : Convocation Hall

Forest Research Institute's Architecture : Courtyard


Forest Research Institute's Architecture : Dome


Forest Research Institute's Architecture : Corridors

Practical information on planning a visit to Forest Research Institute Dehradun

How to reach the Forest Research Institute in Dehradun

  • The campus is located on Chakrata Road in Dehradun.
  • Dehradun is the capital city of the Uttarakhand state. It is well connected to the train network. All major airlines fly to Dehradun’s Jolly Grant Airport.
  • The holy towns of Haridwar and Rishikesh are in close proximity to Dehradun.
  • Dehradun can actually be covered as a day trip from either of the pilgrimage towns.

Timings to visit the FRI building

  • The Museum is closed on weekends.
  • The Museum opens at 10:30 AM during the weekdays.
  • Though, the estate is open for walkers and joggers from the early hours of the day.
  • It is highly advisable not to roam around alone inside the campus post-sunset. Wild animals are said to prowl the area.

You may also make use of the Guide map available on the FRI site during your visit.

Let me know your thoughts on this photo tour of the Forest Research Institute’s Architecture as well as the use of British Architecture in its design and construction. I hope you enjoyed this virtual trip!


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Forest Research Institute's Architecture

29 thoughts on “Forest Research Institute’s British Architecture – A Photo Tour”

  1. A beautiful article on a little known but easily one of the iconic structures of the British era… my impression is that it mirrors the Graeco-Roman style much admired in Victorian England, it looks like a replica of Curzon’s Kedleston Manor building. Which he also used for his design of Government House in Kolkata. Any thoughts?

  2. The buildings are so nicely preserved! I love the symmetry and design. It is a great place for those who love architecture and photography!

  3. First of all, I must say that you have taken stunning photos of symmetrical corridors with those arches. Forest Research Institute which has a lot of colonial influence is really worth visiting and I loved its courtyards, corridors and Lutyen’s style of architecture in it. Good to know many facts about this place like the growth of wheat crop during Second World War and all IFS officers are trainer here.

  4. the campus grounds looks like a palace with the gorgeous brickwork across the arches and long corridors. Love the guest house which truly looks so British and looks like the main residence. Thanks for the rmeinder about no littering and responsible travel!

  5. Your article brought my childhood memories back when we used to go to Dehradun for holidays and visit Forest Research Institute. It’s a great place to go for quiet walks, explore nature, colonial architecture and those lovely six museums. I had completely forgotten that it snowed there in 1945.

  6. This place, indeed, looks dreamy. And that Officer Guest House – straight out of a Jane Austen novel!! When in college, I had a couple of friends whose parents worked here. And they would sing praises of this place. I could never understand then. But now I do. After reading through your post and looking at those pictures, I now have a serious itch to get there as soon as possible.

  7. Stunning place! Those wall and plants give so many photo opst, it would take a me a day just to walk around and take pictures. And not to even mention the museums. So many museums on the campus! Can you visit all of them in one day? This sounds like a great place to spend a day, maybe bring a picnic and enjoy the life!

  8. I haven’t heard about this place before but I’m glad you wrote about it. Your photos of the Forest Research Institute look absolutely amazing! Any building that hosts six museums must be nothing short of spectacular. I would love to visit someday.

  9. I think you have a winning photograph – the corridor with the blue bench in the foreground. It’s simply stunning and I love the composition of that picture. I’m also a sucker for brickwork, so I love the picture of the circular pattern in the underside of the roof! One of the benefits of having the sun play peekaboo is the variety of shots you can get with the lighting!

  10. Your photos have captured the beautiful architecture of the Forest Research Institute. Even with the sun playing tricks, you got some great shots. I especially love the photo of the corridor with the contrasting blue bench. And such a shame that people throw out their plastics without care. Visitors should really leave no trace.

  11. wow!!! wow!! wow!! That’s the only thing I can say! It was a lovely trip there in Dehradun and your beautiful pictures just brought the memories back in abundance!

  12. Lovely pictures, Meenakshi. Many interesting information that I missed during my visit you have mentioned it here so it was a virtual revisit.

  13. Stunning photo-log Meenakshi! You literally took me through a virtual tour with detailed explanation and wonderful clicks accompanying it. It was a visual treat :-)

  14. stunning pictures and a well documented article on the majestic F.R.I.. Dehradun is my hometown and your article has made mw feel nostalgic!

  15. Splendid coverage of this magnificient structure Meenu. You have covered every aspect pertaining to this building from history to filmistan links! I think it is one of the few buildings that has been well-maintained. Hope people take pride in this heritage structure and give it the importance it deserves. Wonderfully written and brilliantly captured!

  16. Lovely! I have lived very close to this institute – way back in the late 80s, when my father was posted at IMA – Dehradun. I again visited it last year – wonder why I have not written about it so far. Beautiful clicks – the credit goes to both you and the architect.

  17. Such stunning pictures. Absolutely loved the one which has that blue bench in the foreground.
    Did you say it snowed in Dehradun? My cousin has a bed-and-breakfast unit and we were there a few years back in the summer and we needed ACs. It was that hot. Almost like the plains.
    And six museums? Seems like we’d need plenty of time to go through this one.

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