A team of 20 sculptors from Panruti will reach Ripon Buildings on Monday to expedite restoration work on the heritage building.

The number of sculptors at work will touch 67 after the new members join the existing team next week. This will be the largest group carrying out restoration work at Ripon Buildings at any point of time.

Over a period of time, the civic body had increased the number of sculptors from 36 to 47 to speed up the work.

The project, funded by Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), has been delayed by a few months because of several factors.

A while ago, sculptors from Mahabalipuram were brought in to work on the heritage structure.

But they were not experienced to handle the lime-mortar structures.

“The sculptors developed severe skin allergy and quit. The Panruti sculptors are the only ones with the ability to cope with challenges pertaining to lime mortar,” an official said.

Apart from the sculptors, a number of masons too are at work, restoring one of the finest examples of Indo-Saracenic architecture in the city.

“Working on architectural structures that have a delicate combination of Gothic, Ionic and Corinthian styles with the obsolete technology of lime-mortar plastering is a challenge,” the official said.

The sculptors have been able to complete only 30 per cent of work on the exterior of the building over the past few years. Inside Ripon Buildings, they have completed 60 per cent of the restoration work.

A single pillar in the heritage structure requires three weeks of meticulous work. There are more than 500 such pillars in the building. Fermentation of lime mortar also takes time. It requires more than a month for preparation of the perfect blend of lime mortar.

The sculptors are paid wages of Rs. 900 each a day.

Officials are confident the restoration will be completed before the building’s 100th anniversary fete begins later this year. Ripon Buildings is the first heritage building in the country to have received funds from JNNURM for renovation.

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