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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XX No. 8, august 1-15, 2010
Is it new life for two
heritage buildings?
(By the Editor)

Even as Madras Day graduates to what looks like Madras Month this year, Madras Musings is happy to report a couple of positive developments on two heritage buildings in the city. It is, of course, a long way to go before we can hope for a Heritage Act, but recent happenings are positive auguries.

The first concerns Bharat Insurance (Kardyll) Building. The sub-committee formed by the Heritage Conservation Committee (HCC) set up by the CMDA at the directive of the High Court of Madras to look into the necessity of preserving this structure, either in part or in full, has recommended the latter option. The six-member sub-committee has unanimously stated that this unique example of Indo-Saracenic architecture must be preserved in full. The HCC has accepted this recommendation and, based on the same, the CMDA is writing to the present owners, the LIC, to prevent any further decay of the building due to vegetation and the vagaries of the weather. The LIC will be asked to ensure that the building has a roof, something which it does not have at present owing to the demolition attempted a few years ago.

However, it is still not clear as to what power the HCC has to enforce restoration of the building by the LIC. And it is only when such a commitment is forthcoming will the saving of the building have any real meaning. Today, there is no legal recourse in case the LIC simply accepts the HCC’s recommendation but does nothing after that. To prevent such an occurrence, a Heritage Act is needed that will not only spell out the rights and responsibilities of owners of heritage buildings, but also clearly state what recourse can be taken under law if such buildings are allowed to fall into disrepair.

The Senate House of the University of Madras is the second building that has been in the news recently. A newspaper report recently pointed out instances of vegetation sprouting from the domes and the falling off of ornamental plasterwork. In response to this, the present Vice-Chancellor, who has been taking an active interest in matters concerning the building, having gone to the extent of using it for a couple of events, has appointed a three-member committee to watch over the welfare of the heritage structure. He has also said that Senate House will soon have a curator and there is a possibility of the building housing a museum dedicated to the University, surely a must for an institution that is over 150 years old.

While the developments concerning Senate House are heartening, it is clear that everything depends on who are in charge and what their priorities are. After a high profile re-opening by the then President of India, Senate House languished, being locked up for several years. It is only now that it has been made available for University-related events. That is hardly the way to treat a heritage building which has to be kept alive.

Be it Bharat Insurance Building or the Senate House, there is a lack of long-term vision. Once again, such a direction can come only from a Heritage Act. Can we hope for such a legislation in the near future?

In this issue

Is it new life for two heritage buildings?
Elevated road at expense of the Cooum?
U.S. journal looks at the new Chennai
World-class city?
– “A wild dream”
Speaking for Chennai Heritage
A temple awaiting a gopuram
Zooming to a start at Sholavaram
Other stories

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