'Marine Drive building revamp needs heritage expert's hand'
Referring to Framroze Court repairs by MHADA, residents say there should be a way to ensure UNESCO guidelines are followed while restoring art deco bldgs
Even as the concerns surrounding the conservation of Esplanade Mansion are yet to be addressed, heritage enthusiasts have now started voicing the same for the repair work of Framroze Court at Marine Drive, which has been taken up by the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA). Protesting the renovation of the external façade of the building, members of the Federation of Resident Trusts (FORT) said a heritage conservationist should be involved in such cases and the expert should either approve or monitor the work.
The FORT members had highlighted their concerns in the letter they wrote to the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) and vice-president of MHADA, Milind Mhaiskar, in July. They had pointed out that the Framroze Court was part of the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble and highlighted that the repair work needed to follow the ICOMOS and UNESCO guidelines. The letter states, "MHADA is undertaking extensive repair and reconstruction of the building, which can be sensitively repaired without losing the original Art Deco features." After receiving the letter, MHCC had written to the A ward office and directed the civic body to "take appropriate action in the matter". The letter was sent to MHADA as well. When contacted, Mhaiskar said, "I will look into the matter and we will address MHCC's concerns."
Atul Kumar, founder of Art Deco Mumbai Trust, said, "It is essential to have a heritage conservationist on board to oversee the repair work of art deco buildings. There should be some accountability to ensure that the UNESCO guidelines are respected," he said.
Supporting Kumar's opinions, Swarn Kohli, chairman of the Nariman Point Churchgate Citizens Association, said, "This is a very serious matter. They should consult a heritage expert even before touching the external facade."
Stressing the need to follow the norms that apply to heritage buildings, Ashok Rao, president of the Federation of Churchgate Residents, said, "The repair work must comply with heritage norms to ensure that the art deco character of the building is not destroyed. Any damage to the façade will also damage the entire precinct."
According to MHADA officials, repair work of the Framroze Court, which was started in April, would cost around Rs 1.04 crore. They further mentioned that the work would be completed before December 2020. One of the officials overseeing the project said the work would include waterproofing the terrace, external and internal plastering, drainage pipe repair and polymer treatment of the reinforced concrete columns.
According to the building inventory of the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble that was part of the submission made to UNESCO, Framroze Court was built in the 1940s and was earlier known as Earl's Court. It was always a residential building and it has small curved balconies on the front facade, polygonal balconies on the side facades and large curved balconies in the rear facade.
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