'Bengaluru lost Krumbiegel Hall, let's save aquarium'

The demolition of 100-year-old Krumbiegel Lecture Hall in Lalbagh  drew protests from members of the Indian National Trust for Art and Heritage (Intach) and some concerned citizens on Sunday.

Some of the protesters were personally involved in preparing a report on the restoration of the hall dedicated to Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel, the German botanist known for his work on Lalbagh. The Intach report, submitted in 2012, estimated the cost of restoration at Rs 22 lakh.

The Horticulture Department, which takes care of Lalbagh, did not take up restoration. The procrastination finally saw a part of the building collapse following heavy rainfall in recent months. "The rest of the building was on the verge of collapse. We dismantled it to avoid any damage to citizens and tourists," the department said in a statement.

Aravind Chandramohan, of Intach, said:  "We have lost a priceless part of our heritage. Our focus is now on saving the aquarium, which is in a state of disrepair. Officials must take up its restoration immediately. We should not lose another heritage building."  

The department is sitting on a proposal to restore the aquarium building which is said to be more than 150 years old. Intach co-convener Meera Iyer said it was high time the government set up a dedicated department to protect and conserve heritage monuments.

"The present system doesn't ensure the monitoring of monuments. The government should survey the structures that are part of our history and heritage, and come out with a policy to protect them, including the private ones," she added.

While the Horticulture Department said it planned to rebuild the Krumbiegel Hall, experts said officials should build a memorial for the botanist instead of building "a replica" of the heritage structure. "The original building had a historical value and this demolition was avoidable. Now, instead of building a copy, they should build a memorial in the honour of Krumbiegel,"  urban architect Naresh Narasimhan said.

Suresh Moona, who has written extensively on Bengaluru's history, said that in cities like London, the government gave incentives to owners of private properties that were part of the heritage. "Historical buildings are not mere physical structures. They represent coming together of ideas, men in our history. They are as important as human beings," he said.

SECOND STORY

Didn't favour demolition:  Intach  

Members of Intach and a private company, which studied the feasibility of restoring Krumbiegel Hall, slammed the Horticulture Department for claiming that they had recommended demolition.

"Civil Aid (the private company) and the PWD (Public Works Department) had given a report stating it was not feasible to restore the building... We got an estimate from Intach on rebuilding the hall," a release from the department said.

Intach's Aravind Chandramohan showed a copy of  the report submitted to the government which gave an estimate of the restoration. "We never recommended demolition of the building. We prepared an estimate of restoration with Rs 16.31 lakh at government rate and Rs 22 lakh at market rate," he said.

An expert who was involved in preparing the report with Civil Aid, which has since been acquired by a French company, told DH on the condition of anonymity that they just provide cost estimation for both scenarios. "We came up with a report giving an estimation for rebuilding as well as restoration. But we clearly recommended that the building be restored if the heritage value is to be protected," he said.

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