Friday's unexpected downpour that witnessed incessant thunder and lightning not only caught the city unawares, but also served as a wake-up call for its heritage structures. The Army & Navy building at Kala Ghoda was struck by a streak of lightning that led to the collapse of the crown of a gable (triangular portion between intersecting roof pitches) from its façade on the topmost portion of the building. However, thanks to the original lightning arrestor installed on its pediment, it did not impact the main structure to a large extent except for the surrounding stone that broke away. Luckily, no one was injured. Yesterday, a hanging loose stone was removed for safety, revealing the sturdy pipe fixing detail of the copper thong that ensured no further damage to the affected portion.
The Grade II A heritage structure was built in the modified Italianate style with neo-Classical features by architects Gostling & Morris in 1898. The commercial building for M/s Tata Sons Ltd. was the first tenanted building in the city to be fully restored in 1997-98.
Pushing for the need to install lightning arrestors across all heritage structures, conservation architect Vikas Dilawari says, "It is essential for significant heritage buildings to take a note of its necessity, and install a proper lightning earthing protection system. Those buildings that already have lightning arrestors should check their permissible readings regularly; old buildings should conduct this as part of their annual surveys." He picks the nearly 300-year-old St Thomas Cathedral at Horniman Circle as a fine example of a structure with a robust lightning arrestor and earthing system.
Dilawari, who has worked on the restoration of several heritage buildings, including UNESCO award-winning sites like The Esplanade House and Cama Buildings, believes that a secure earthing system is what has kept the city's heritage intact until now. "These systems will help safeguard our heritage for the future," he signs off.
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