A 3,000 sq. ft heritage structure belonging to the colonial era gets royal attention. A look by Nandhini Sundar
It is a tiled roof structure, built in 1913 to serve as an elementary school for the children residing in Ulsoor. It is derelict, the tiled roof giving way in most sections, the water seeping through the roof damaging the walls, rotting the wooden rafters, leaving the floor totally damaged. The building, not surprisingly, was left unused for over a decade, accentuating the dilapidation.
The 3,000 sq. ft heritage structure belonging to the colonial era, accommodating five rooms with a verandah on three sides, sits amidst a large site of over 30,000 sq. ft in the Government Kannada Higher Primary school complex where two more structures that came up in the recent past prevail to accommodate the students.
When architect Kavita Sastry came across the building, she decided to adopt the structure under the Community Development Studio (CODE) project initiative of the Institute of Indian Interior Designers Bengaluru Regional Chapter (IIID BRC). Striking an alliance with NGO Ashwini Charitable Trust and sponsor Faurecia Emission Control Technologies, Sastry, who coordinates CODE for IIID BRC, took up the humungous task of restoring the heritage structure.
“We needed an expert who had experience of restoring similar buildings. We managed to get Mahesh Ninganna who had worked with INTACH and been instrumental in restoring many heritage buildings such as Santhome Cathedral in Chennai, Jayalakshmi Vilas mansion in Mysuru, and Arakkal Kettu in Kannur, Kerala,” states Sastry.
Given the condition of the walls, the entire plastering had to be removed and redone. “Since it was lime plaster, it was easy to remove without damaging the bricks beneath”, says Ninganna. The lime mortar used for re-plastering was ground on site using lime and river sand.
“The fine lime mortar requires grinding for 24 hours and the plastering was done in the traditional manner.”
According to him, the damage to the walls was less merely because lime does not retain water like cement but releases it after absorption.
“This ensures the walls do not swell up with water. This is one of the chief reasons the walls in heritage buildings continue to remain strong”, he says.
The flooring had been completely damaged with water seeping in from beneath as well as from the damaged roof. “The flooring had to be totally removed and was redone using red oxide, following the traditional methods of laying red oxide flooring”, explains Ninganna.
Though the roof tiles had broken and given way in many places, the condition of a significant number of the tiles was good and could be salvaged. “We ploughed back 70 per cent of the existing tiles after cleaning them. The salvaged tiles were sufficient to cover all the rooms. New tiles were required only for the verandahs”, he adds.
As for the wooden rafters, not much could be salvaged as most were rotten with the water seepage. “We lost 60 per cent of the wooden rafters which needed to be replaced. Local Sal wood sourced from Mangaluru was used to replace the damaged wooden rafters as they are a sturdy option”, says Sastry.
Interestingly the cast iron columns along with their wooden brackets were all in good condition and could be salvaged completely. “Only one had a slight damage which was rectified. All the columns and wooden brackets were cleaned and restored”, says Ninganna.
The doors and windows along with their stone lintels and sunshades were equally in good condition, with all of them restored after cleaning and repainting. “During restoration, care was taken to ensure the original dents in the wood were retained and not covered”, smiles Ninganna, pointing to the minute attention to detail given in the restoration work.
While all the iron rods in the windows could be fully salvaged after cleaning, some of the hooks and wooden stoppers too were salvaged and refitted, permitting the building to exude its past glory.
The restored building is a complete contrast to the totally damaged structure that came to our hands for restoration, says Sastry.
“The restored structure not only brings back a bit of our heritage for the students, the space also offers the opportunity of being used as a community hub and library for the students and the residents around the school.”
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