Will Old Distillery morph into cultural complex?

The Old Distillery remained unused, except as a parking lot in the past. It played host to the photography exhibition PondyPHOTO in 2014.— Photo: T. Singaravelou  

After several proposals ranging from a star hotel to a family entertainment centre to a recreation centre and a multiplex, the Puducherry Government is now considering the construction of a multipurpose cultural complex on the premises of the sea-facing Old Distillery.

The Tourism Department has invited Expression of Interest from architects and consultants for a conceptual design for the cultural complex which would include features like an amphitheatre, art gallery, museum, food court and light and sound show, said R. Mounissamy, Director, Department of Tourism.

“The complex should take into account the history and culture of Puducherry,” he said.

The complex would be maintained by the Tourism Department or the Puducherry Tourism Development Corporation, said Mr. Mounissamy.

The Old Distillery has been lying unused and sometimes used as a parking lot in the past. It played host to the photography exhibition PondyPHOTO in 2014. The area is around 1.9 acres, he said.

While Chief Minister N. Rangasamy had mentioned the government’s proposal to build a star hotel on the premises in September 2014 in his 2014-2015 Budget speech, the changed stand has come about following a visit to the site by Lieutenant Governor A.K. Singh, Chief Secretary Manoj Parida and tourism officials.

Mr. Singh, who is also the Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands had suggested a light and sound show on the history of Puducherry, similar to the installation at Ross Island in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. He had said such a centre would engage tourists.

The idea for a cultural complex is not new. The Puducherry chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) had made a proposal around 2010 for a humanity park with social activities and space for performances, said A. Arul, senior architect, INTACH.

Speaking in August 2014 to The Hindu , the late Ajit Koujalgi of INTACH, had spoken about an art, culture and performance centre.

“A space where people can experience art and exhibitions with an amphitheatre and auditorium would be good. Speciality food stalls which serve local and organic food would also be a good thing to have,” he had said.

The development of a cultural and heritage precinct inclusive of the Old Distillery, the reconstructed Mairie building and the Old Port on the Beach Promenade, had also emerged among top suggestions at a workshop organised by People for Pondicherry’s Heritage and PondyCAN this October.

INTACH plans to apply with a proposal, said Ashok Panda, Convenor.

The centre should make use of its location, and offer a view of the sea, said Mr. Panda.

“Our proposal seeks to maintain the vernacular style of architecture, keeping the history and culture of Puducherry in context. We are also thinking of including the restoration of the tower on the premises in the proposal. It should cater to residents and tourists. While it should be revenue generating, it should be simple and not too commercial,” said Mr. Arul.

Mr. Panda said that the centre must not lead to congestion on the Beach Road.

He added that questions about its funding and maintenance remain.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 10:48:21 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/will-old-distillery-morph-into-cultural-complex/article8031118.ece

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