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Project to restore heritage structures of Allahabad varsity

Staff Reporter
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Vijayanagaram Hall was designed by eminent British architect Sir William Emerson

A view of Vijayanagram hall of the Allahabad University.Photo: Brijesh Jaiswal
A view of Vijayanagram hall of the Allahabad University.Photo: Brijesh Jaiswal

Allahabad University, which turned 125 last September, has set in motion the renovation of four of its national heritage buildings. The project is on with the restoration of the Vijayanagaram Hall, which was designed by eminent British architect Sir William Emerson, known for designing the Victoria Memorial in Kolkata, and inaugurated by Viceroy Lord Dufferin in 1887.

Built of stone in a mix of Mughal, Gothic and Saracenic style, the 180-foot edifice is a structure of singular beauty on the sprawling campus, also the fourth oldest in the country.

The hall has a tiled dome and high tower, exquisite interior craftsmanship with rose windows, decorative arches and columns, mosaic flooring, stained glass windows and paintings on the ceiling.

RITES Limited, under the Ministry of Railways, is the varsity’s management consultant for the project, which includes support of an expert panel from INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) Delhi Chapter and the Archaeological Survey of India.

“We have engaged conservation architect STAMBH (Saving Traditional Art Material and Built Heritage) with the priority to restore the original pattern of the tiles and paintings with the original material. But that has been the biggest hurdle yet. If we cannot get those materials, we will use components that will stop the further deterioration of the buildings,” Naveen Singh, university engineer, told The Hindu .

The restoration plan of the hall is expected to be completed in 36 months with a preliminary budget of Rs 8.64 crore. The original building was built at a total cost of Rs. 8 lakh.

A plan to restore the heritage buildings was conceived in 2006 but after much groundwork, the execution was disrupted. A new project was devised in 2009-10, whose execution started this month. The project focuses on renovating stone structures initially.

“Though most of them [buildings] look similar in design, some structures are made of ‘surkhi’ and lime, while others are stone. We will focus on stone structures initially,” Mr. Singh said.

According to the project plan, “age and lack of proper management” are the main reasons for the deterioration of the heritage structures.

The plan envisages undertaking repairs to the seepages and the cast iron railings, fitting in missing pieces in the architecture, checking the growth of algae, replacing most of the glasses and cleaning of the stone.

The other heritage buildings that are lined up for conservation are the Senate Hall, the Darbhanga Hall and the English Department building.

These three were designed in the Indo-Saracenic style by architect Sir Samuel Swinton Jacob and are known by their imposing facades, adorned by domes, cupolas, towers, ornamental columns and railings.

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