Two heritage buildings restored

Two heritage buildings restored

Neglected over the years, they would have faded into history but for the intervention of conservationists

Built in early 20th Century, Bangalore Gate is believed to be a toll gate.

Two of Bengaluru’s heritage structures, neglected for long, have come back to life, thanks to an initiative involving the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach). 

Bangalore Gate

Built in early 20th Century
Cost of restoration: Rs 40 lakh
Time taken: One year

Located near Royan Circle on Mysore Road, this structure was in ruins, and few knew about its historical significance.

Built in early 20th Century, the structure is believed to be a toll gate monitoring the movement of horse carts between Bengaluru and Mysuru. With no maintenance, its walls had chipped off, and a giant peepul tree had grown through its roof. Restoration work began in September 2019, and is almost complete. “The biggest challenge was to retain the building in one piece, without destroying its essence,” says Meera, convenor, Intach (Bengaluru Chapter).  “Removing the tree was a big challenge,” she adds.

The false windows were meant to give the structure a symmetrical look. Pankaj Modi, conservation architect and technical coordinator, Intach, says, “We had to first stabilise the walls structurally, after the tree was removed. For this, we got Helifix rods from Vadodara. Lime mortar was prepared in Mysuru and brought to the site.” Doing the false louver in lime plaster required special skill. The roof was redone in all three rooms, especially around the dome.

“We added a parapet wall of short height to define the structure. We have left the ceiling of the Madras terrace around the hexagonal room, below the dome, exposed, for people to see how the structure was built,” he says.

The building will be ready by November 30. Bengaluru Police Commissioner’s office is responsible for its maintenance and upkeep. It plans to use it as a library.

Fort High School

Built in 1907
Cost of restoration: Rs 2.3 crore
Time taken: Two and half years

Built on a sprawling campus in the heart of the city, Fort High School is 113 years old.

It was built by the Mysuru administration in 1907, and continues to this day to provide education to children in the area. Famously, its grounds are used for the annual Ramanavami concerts, and the building’s walls reverberate with the sounds of the very best of Indian classical music.

Restoration

Intach began restoring Fort High School in Chamarajpet on World Heritage Day in April 2018. The work was carried out while the school was working, and so had to be done in phases. “We had to open up everything to assess the extent of the damage. There were places where the beams were completely hollowed out. Getting matching size beams was a task,” says Meera. 

Pankaj says, “The building was initially planned as a symmetrical structure. Then there was another phase of extension which resulted in the formation of a courtyard. It is a hybrid style, a mix of colonial and vernacular styles.” He adds that the team tried to incorporate subtle design changes in the flooring and cladding in the classrooms. The toilets were moved inside of the second courtyard.

The building is completed. What about the colour scheme, which has changed from off white to red? “The colour scheme was based on what we discovered during the process of restoration,” says Pankaj. 

Who funded the renovation?

The renovation of Bangalore Gate and Fort High School was funded by Basant Poddar, managing director of Mineral Enterprises Ltd. “A lot of detailing had to be done in both buildings,” Poddar, who enjoys a penchant for all things antique, told Metrolife. 

Bhaskar Rao: Reinstate Heritage Commission

Former city police commissioner Bhaskar Rao took the initiative to restore the two structures to their original glory. “It has been a long-cherished dream to restore the Bangalore Gate. There were many moves to demolish it. But during my tenure, we managed to get work started to give it a new look. There were also plans to commercialise the Fort High School premises. Even that has been thwarted by like-minded old Bengalureans,” he says. He sees an urgent need to reinstate the Heritage Commission to protect the remaining heritage structures in the city. The commission, that was functional and active during S M Krishna’s tenure, was headed by T P Issar.