Govt sets wheels rolling for restoration nearly four months after fire tragedy

On Anna Salai, nestled between the hustle and bustle of government buildings, stands Kalas Mahal, the 18 century building that was ravaged in a fire in January this year. The Public Works Department will soon call for a detailed project report from conservation architects to restore the 244-year-old heritage structure.

The State government has directed the department to use its maintenance fund to reconstruct the damaged portion. According to sources, the architect will submit the design of the building and details of construction materials to be used for restoration. “We will also check the stability of the structure before executing the project,” said an official.

A committee comprising the dean, School of Architecture, Anna University, engineer-in-chief (buildings), chief architect, PWD, and chief planner, Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority, will scrutinise and select the designs submitted. The work to restore the building is expected to begin in two months and it will be completed in about a year.

“The building will once again house government offices,” said an official. Earlier, the offices of the Director of Social Welfare, the Chief Inspector of Factories and the Director of Industries and Commerce, functioned out of this building.

Some heritage experts, however, have expressed scepticism over this move. “A similar exercise was carried out in the past to restore Ripon Buildings. But there was no expert to guide the restoration,” said K. Kalpana, a conservation architect.

Sriram V., convener of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, Tamil Nadu, said restoration work must be carried out soon. “It has been close to four months since the fire but no work has been taken up yet. It has to be made sure that no further damage is caused to the building,” he said.

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