To maintain memoirs, documents and records in heritage buildings

A centralised digital data centre will be set up by the State government to preserve data on old memoirs, valuable documents and records of government offices functioning in heritage buildings. As the Public Works Department has been asked to send necessary proposals to government in this regard, the documentation of such buildings in the city is likely to begin shortly.

Accepting the recommendations of a three-member committee on structural stability of Kalas Mahal, the State government on Tuesday also directed the PWD Engineer-in-Chief (Buildings) to send necessary proposals to the government for demolition and reconstruction of the Indo-Saracenic heritage building that was destroyed in a fire on January 16.

Demolition of the gutted part of the 244-year-old Kalas Mahal will begin soon to facilitate complete reconstruction of the heritage structure using the materials similar to the ones originally used. According to the recommendations of the committee, building management system with surveillance camera would be installed in all similar government buildings in a phased manner.

The PWD would begin documentation of the architectural style, scale, proportion, architectural features and materials used in the interior and exterior of the Kalas Mahal shortly. The committee has also recommended that “the accident spot should be marked as a zone of danger and should be in protected custody. No person should be allowed inside the building without any safety arrangements. The area should be cordoned off till the entire building is pulled down.”

The PWD has been directed to utilise the services of a conservation architect also. The department on Tuesday started preparation of estimates for the reconstruction of the damaged portion by retaining the outer wall of Kalas Mahal.

Soon after the fire, Public Works Department Minister K.V.Ramalingam had said that the building was beyond repair. The committee in its report too has voiced similar views by concluding that “the repair and restoration of the structure to its original condition is not viable”.

The floors of the two-storey building had collapsed and only the side walls remain. “The fire accident should be considered a lesson in revealing the vulnerability of our heritage buildings,” the report said. Convener of INTACH Chennai Chapter V.Sriram said the document of the committee was “fairly balanced” but stressed the need for a greater role of “conservation experts in the reconstruction of such heritage buildings.”