Respect for the past is vital for the future

With the BMC planning to widen the Kabutar Khana junction by two metres and give this busy traffic island more than just a cosmetic face lift, one can look forward to a smoother ride around this iconic Dadar landmark.

As reported in yesterday’s mid-day, the decision includes shifting the granary inside, renovation of the heritage fountain, and giving it a makeover with new flooring and focus lights. While the news is bound to ease this busy junction, there are a few factors that must be considered.

In the BMC’s zeal to remodel this landmark, utmost care must be taken to ensure that the original heritage fountain a Grade II heritage structure and the revised space blend aesthetically and stick to heritage site norms.

We’ve had several instances where Mumbai’s heritage structures have been at the receiving end of this keenness to overdo things the ‘modern’ way. A case in point would be the ghastly subway outside the UNESCO World Heritage site Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus that was constructed in 1999. The sweeping image of this fine example of Gothic architecture once the most photographed structure in Asia after the Taj Mahal has been spoiled for good, thanks to lack of vision by the powers that were. More recently, the technicoloured lighting on the structure’s outer façade earned mixed reviews. Another example of a lack of much-needed thought and expertise takes us to our only other UNESCO World Heritage site, at Elephanta Caves. Even an untrained eye will tell you how the new constructions and changes have marred the site.

These days, a growing worry that plagues restoration projects related to heritage sites is the mindless construction that disrespects local architecture and aesthetic elements. One hopes that the Heritage Committee reviewing the plan for Kabutar Khana will ensure that the heritage fountain and its new space isn’t transformed into a garish spectacle that stands out for all the wrong reasons.

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