Over two years after the historic Kalas Mahal was ravaged in a fire, the Public Works Department will begin work to restore the 18 century structure next week.

Though the project was slated to be started in December last year, finalisation of the bids delayed the process. PWD officials said a work order was issued recently to Krishnamurthy and Co., a construction firm, which has done similar restoration work for Ripon Buildings.

S. Suresh, state convenor, INTACH, said the work should be done as soon as possible. Kalas Mahal, which is part of the Chepauk Palace, was built in 1768. The Indo-Saracenic structure is classified as a grade I heritage building in the Justice E. Padmanabhan committee report. The building housed some State government offices till January 2012, when the fire damaged the building.

The building will be restored based on the recommendations made by heritage conservation architect Ravi Gundu Rao. “It is a very labour-intensive job that requires skilled workers. You can’t do a job like this with a rigid mindset and a set plan. There needs to be flexibility and openmindedness, because often what is planned may not work out on the ground,” he said.

He added that on a scale of 1 to 10 of difficulty, Ripon Buildings would be three-and-a-half, while Kalas Mahal would be 9.

“We plan to restore the structure to its original condition with available materials. The area will be cordoned off and the approach road on the PWD campus will also be closed,” said a PWD official.

Rubble in the damaged portion will be cleared in the single-storey building. Materials that could be used will be numbered and retrofitted in the damaged portion.

The plan is to complete the project in a year, the official added.

(With inputs from Zubeda Hamid)

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