`Restoration costs less than constructing new building'

The expert from Singapore, Keshava Murthy (right), and his partner Sukumar Iyer in Chennai. — Photo: R. Ragu

The expert from Singapore, Keshava Murthy (right), and his partner Sukumar Iyer in Chennai. — Photo: R. Ragu  

CHENNAI, AUG.1. Abdul Gafoor Mosque is located on Dunlop Street, a busy area in Singapore. Built about 150 years ago, the mosque is one of the national heritage monuments. About 10 years ago, those who managed the affairs of the mosque felt the need for creating more space for prayermeetings. They also came to know that there were cracks in the building.

These structural experts were approached. In 1999, the work was assigned to an agency headed by C. Keshava Murthy, whose name has become synonymous with restoration and renovation of heritage buildings. It took three years to complete the work and cost five million Singapore dollars.

"As the mosque is a heritage structure, we could not construct a new building. So, we built a prayer hall just below the old hall, measuring 6,400 sq.ft," says Dr. Murthy, who holds a Ph.D. in building science from the University of Liverpool, United Kingdom.

Heritage award

The work fetched him and his agency, CKM Consultants, the ACES (Association of Consulting Engineers, Singapore) the Design Excellence Award 2002 and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA — a body similar to Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority) Heritage Award 2003. Based in Singapore, Dr. Murthy, who was here recently, disapproves of pulling down heritage buildings just because they have become old and `unusable'. Restoration or conservation of such buildings cost less than constructing building. "Without disturbing the original character of these buildings, more space can be created."

It is not just heritage monuments that Dr. Murthy has handled. Addition of 14 storeys to a four-storeyed star hotel and strengthening of a residential complex, comprising 200 units, are among the projects undertaken by him. Recently, his services were utilised for correcting a tilted eight-storeyed residential apartment in Andheri, Mumbai.

V. Sukumar Iyer, a chartered accountant and a partner in a new venture in civil and structural engineering to be launched by Dr. Murthy in India, says there are several opporunities in this field. With the expertise available, even parking space for commercial complexes in busy locations can be created. Referring to Senate House and the Presidency College buildings in Chennai, Mr Iyer says, "we will be glad to associate ourselves with any efforts to restore and conserve them."

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