‘The roof is an example of Madras terrace, while the adjoining verandahs are tiled. The ground floor is designed more like a podium with a series of semi-circular arches punctuating its solid surface,’ says the Justice E. Padmanabhan Committee report about the building that housed the Government Madrasa-I-Azam School on Mount Road. Today, it would be a challenge to locate even a speck of the richly-described architectural features of this grade-I heritage building.

The school stopped functioning from the building after portions of it began to collapse in 2005, due to rain and aging. Ever since, the building has seen no intervention, says Syed M.M. Ameen, assistant secretary of the parent teacher association at the school.

The main building, he says, was designed to look like a scorpion from above as the zodiac sign of the princess who once resided there was believed to be Scorpio.

“A few years ago, officials from the Public Works Department drew up an estimate to preserve it. An assessment was also made by students of the MEASI Academy of Architecture and both said it could be restored. However, little has happened since,” he says. The cost of restoration was estimated around Rs. 2 crore, he says.

Talking about the challenge of a heritage building doubling up as a school, Mr. Ameen says, when parents come to enrol their children, they look for facilities, and that has been a challenge after the main building was vacated. Though new classrooms and a block were added with funds granted under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and donations, they have not been enough, he says.

“If it is turned into a management-run school, we are willing to bear the cost of restoration by collecting funds and donations from our members and alumni. The building can be restored based on the plan approved by the heritage conservation committee,” he says.

According to the Justice E. Padmanabhan Committee report, the property on Mount Road was called Umda Bagh, and changed hands several times before it was acquired by the Government to be used as a school. It was established as a premier Islamic institution in 1849 and moved into this building in 1894.

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