Come Jan. 16, it will be a year since parts of the building were damaged in a fire

Come January 16, it will be a year since parts of the 18 century Kalas Mahal in Chepauk were ravaged in a fire.

Although a series of measures was initiated, little progress seems to have been made at the ground level towards commencing the restoration of this early example of Indo-Saracenic architecture, which stands worn out and neglected.

On the status of the issue, sources with the Public Works Department say they would finalise a conservation architect, who would prepare a detailed project report, within a week’s time.

An official said that they had invited expression of interest, the deadline for which was in June, from conservation architects but were not satisfied with the response.

“We were keen on having an architect who had previous experience in conservation and had completed a conservation project. Most who applied only had ongoing projects to show, so we recalled the expression of interest in October,” the official said.

The chosen architect would be given three weeks’ time to submit a detailed project report, which a committee comprising of head of department, department of architecture, Anna University, PWD engineer-in-chief (buildings) and the chief urban planner of Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority would then consider, an official said.

The report would have details about the design and plan of the building, and the materials to be used, among other aspects.

“We want to formulate a procedure to be followed hereafter to restore heritage buildings based on this,” said the official about the building which has been listed as a Grade I heritage building in the Justice E.Padmanabhan Committee report.

The official affirmed that close to a year’s exposure to the weather with no temporary support has not affected the stability of the structure’s exterior. “There has not been any damage to it,” said the official, adding, “Our vision is to keep the structure as close to the original as possible, retaining almost all of its architectural elements.”

On the slow pace at which the process is spanning out, a member of the government-appointed technical committee which submitted its report to the government after the fire, said, “The government is serious about restoring the building, but is caught up in the many procedures involved. Action on a building of this nature needs to fast-tracked to avoid further damage.”

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