Move to raze block in Vani Vilas Hospital leaves experts in shock

Move to raze block in Vani Vilas Hospital leaves experts in shock

The medical education department's decision to demolish a block in the Vani Vilas Hospital has left conservation architects, structural engineers and the donor's family in deep shock.

A day after DH carried a report on the department's move to demolish the Sajjan Rao Block adjoining Vani Vilas, members of the philanthropist's family expressed their anguish and asked the authorities not to act in haste.

The department said drilling of the underground tunnel for the metro rail has damaged the building, and asked for
Rs 48 crore as compensation to raze and rebuild the SR Block, besides repairing four other edifices in the hospital premises.

Ajay Kadam, Rao's great grandson and administrator of the Subramanyaswamy Temple Trust, said the decision to break down the building has deeply upset the family.

Rao donated Rs 50,000 for the construction of the building in the early 1930s to set up a specialised maternity ward.

"Young women were dying at childbirth due to inadequate facilities, which prompted Sajjan Rao to donate the money. (But) it is unfortunate that today it faces the threat of demolition," Kadam rued.

A regular visitor to the hospital, Kadam said the building's structural damage was noticed only after the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL) began the construction of the metro rail line. He also added that the building was neglected for several years.

"There was no adequate planning on the part of the BMRCL, which blames the age of the structure instead of taking the onus," Kadam said. "How can a sturdy 80-year-old building suddenly develop deep cracks if not for the excavation (to lay the rail line)? The building is strong despite its age."

The BMRCL acted with care while drilling the tunnel before the Vidhana Soudha. The corporation even hauled away the Ambedkar statue to ensure its safety. "But there are so many heritage buildings in the area and the government has not acted with caution," Kadam said.

He said the government should consult structural experts before taking further action. "Modern technology is available to restore the building; it can be saved. I will write to the medical education minister, requesting him to revisit the matter," he said.

Intach's conservation architect Pankaj Modi said the organisation would write to the government to restore the building.

"It's an iconic building. Ironically, it is listed and mapped in the revised master plan 2031 as a heritage building", he said.Conservation architect Sathya Prakash Varanashi pointed out that load-bearing wall structures could be easily restored, even if the building's foundation was weak.

"A majority of the heritage structures in the country are load-bearing wall structures," Varanashi said. "There are examples of many of them being restored effectively."

He faulted the government for not taking opinions of the subject experts.

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