Story behind Opera restoration

The restored Samsung Opera House threw its doors open to the public on Tuesday.

The experience centre is all about virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), the company says.

The Samsung design team is also winning acclaim for restoring a precious piece of Bengaluru heritage.

Mohandeep Singh, Senior Vice President, Mobile Business, Samsung India, told Metrolife retail experts helped the company design the space.

“The considerations were manifold. The first was that we did not want to change anything because it is an iconic structure. We wanted to maintain the architecture and get it renovated and restored in the right manner. The second was to gift back to the city art, culture, entertainment that Opera House was known for,” he says.

 The restoration team retained every piece of wood it found in the building.

“This building is acoustically very sound. There’s a pillar at every entrance and this creates a sound-proofing that ensures that the sound cannot escape. The pillar maintains the acoustic integrity of this place. We didn’t change that,” he says. The design team accentuated what was already in place.

“The granite pillar carvings near the wall have only been repainted,” he explains. Multiple engineers came in to test the strength of the structure and certify its safety. “The lights have been brought in to make the place look bright and cheerful,” Singh says.

A/C challenge

The biggest challenge was to introduce air-conditioning without making or breaking the original structure.

Performance space

An outdoor performance is now ready inside the compound of Samsung Opera House. The company plans to invite musicians, artistes and stand-up comedians to perform. It will publish a schedule of events online.

100+ years old, reckons history buff

Kiran Natarajan, IT professional, who curates the Bygone Bangalore vintage photo group, has been following the history of Opera House for years.

He has collected rare pictures which he shared with Metrolife. “It is a remarkable building that has undergone repurposing many times in the past 100 years,” he says.

He had assumed the formal name of the building was ‘New Opera’ as the sign was up there in neon, but a friend told him it was earlier known as ‘Opera House’.

The land was bought by contractor T C W Skipp in 1913. He later built a theatre there, so we can date the building to the late 1910s.

Skipp, incidentally, was also involved in the construction of the IISc main building and governmental buildings, Kiran says. “During that time, Opera House was mainly used as a venue for dances and theatrical performances. A few years after Skipp’s death, in 1939, his heirs sold the property to Indian owners, who planned to run it as a cinema, and that is possibly when the bright neon sign of ‘New Opera’ went up to highlight its earliest repurposing,” he says. It later became a hotchpotch arena where B-Grade movies vied were screened, and it was used as a convenient hangout at the end of Brigade Road.

Later, small shops selling a variety of things--from kebabs to handbags to cheap clothes---occupied the building. “In its fourth avatar, it has been restored quite classily by Samsung to be used as an integral, showcase zone,” he says. 

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