The Central Railway seems to have thrown the baby with the bathwater. After the incautious demolition of a toilet block adjacent to the CST heritage building led to some ornamental parts of the edifice being destroyed, the railway authorities have thought it best to dispose of the gargoyles rather than restore them.
In the process of removing an old makeshift toilet, lion-faced gargoyles, pilasters shaped like chess pieces and finials protruding from the building were accidentally torn down. The severed sculptures were packed in a metal box along with other debris, and the box was left in a corner on the eastern side of the premises.
On September 4, MiD DAY had reported (‘Rash demolition damages world heritage CST’) about the railways’ apathy towards the 125-year-old building which has been designated a world heritage by the UNESCO. Now, the trunk with the gargoyles has been removed and the area tidied up, but the broken parts have not been restored and instead disposed. Since CST is a world heritage, no modifications or damage is allowed to the stone sculptures and they are required to be restored.
Officials, however, denied any damage had occurred. “These parts had been kept aside long before work on the toilet block was carried out, as part of the initial restoration work,” said a senior CR official on condition of anonymity. Last week, the debris was cleared away in a truck, along with other discarded furniture and stones and bricks. As of now, the area is clean but for a part of the broken toilet. “We will be demolishing the toilet block entirely along with other temporary structures,” said Atul Rane, chief public relations officer, CR.
The toilet block was not part of the heritage building and was constructed for the railway employees at the time of building a passageway on the first floor. More than a year back, a canteen adjoining this toilet block was gutted in a blaze, following which the CR authorities had decided to demolish unwanted structures close to the heritage building.
>> The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), formerly Victoria Terminus, is an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture
>> It was designed by British architect F W Stevens, and came to symbolise what was then Bombay, a major international mercantile port, as Gothic City
>> The terminal was built over 10 years, starting in 1878, according to a High Victorian Gothic design based on late medieval Italian models
>> It is an outstanding example of the meeting of two cultures, as British architects worked with local craftsmen to include native architectural tradition and idioms, thus forging a new style