Mumbai: Century-old hospital gets new lease of life in first-of-its-kind project

Updated: Feb 16, 2019, 14:37 IST | Chetna Sadadekar | Mumbai

The neoclassical facade of Bhajekar hospital will be restored to its full glory, while the interiors will get a complete facelift without harming heritage features such as the original wooden staircases or Minton tiles

The facade of the rundown building will be resorted to its former glory, as will other heritage features such as the original staircases inside. Pics/Bipin Kokate
The facade of the rundown building will be resorted to its former glory, as will other heritage features such as the original staircases inside. Pics/Bipin Kokate

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) will soon embark on a one-of-its-kind restoration project at Bhajekar hospital, a Grade III heritage building on Charni Road. While the neoclassical façade will be preserved, inside the building, the civic body will make major changes to improve structural stability, as well as change the floor plan by constructing new rooms.

All this, while also restoring inteorior heritage features such as the original wooden staircases, old Minton tiles and the lime plaster on the walls. The tender for the project has been pegged at Rs 5.06 crore and is one of 12 important restoration projects of the year, said civic officials.

Bhajekar Hospital

Building's history
The structure, which was built in 1916, was taken over by BMC in 1956. Nair hospital's Ophthalmologic ward operated from here, along with a psychiatric centre and a doctors residence, which was later shut in the 1990s, following which the structure remained vacant. Sources revealed that several wooden floors and iron rods had been stolen from there, and the place was in shambles. After the structure was included in the Grade III heritage published list in 2012, the BMC decided to take up its conservation and appointed contractors in 2017 for this.

The process
The ground-plus-two-storey structure is spread across about 527 square metres on all three floors. The civic body has demolished the floors inside, retained only the façade and load-bearing walls. New rooms and floors will be built without disturbing the façade, said officials. Heritage features such as the quartertone wooden staircase will also remain unharmed, and will be restored and strengthened.

A senior civic official said, "The facade, which displays the neoclassical style of architecture, was given the utmost important and has not been disturbed. The repair and restoration work are being carried out inside under the supervision of an appointed heritage conservationist, It is one of the firsts where such major structural changes are taking place without disturbing the façade and heritage structure."

Shashank Mehendale, the structural consultant appointed by the BMC for this work, also said, "It is a one-of-its-kind project, a classic façade retention project. It will add stability to the structure while maintaining the heritage look."

While the BMC is yet to decide on the final purpose for the building, civic officials from the Nair hospital said the authorities may be mulling on setting up a doctors' hostel there, once the restoration work is completed.

Rahul Chemburkar, consultant appointed to oversee the heritage restoration, said, "The entrance has a wonderful glass panel, which is being restored along with the old Minton tiles for the flooring. The main entrance lobby, which there was a statue of the owner, will also be revived along with the beautiful wooden panelling around it. The structure had an open-to-sky courtyard, which will also be back. There are certain structural interventions, mainly to strengthen the structure. This is a unique project."

Despite repeated attempts to contact Additional Municipal Commissioner IA Kundan, she was unavailable for comment.

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