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HindustanTimes Thu,31 Jul 2014

Plan to save Prez house from mindless makeovers

Moushumi Das Gupta, Hindustan Times  New Delhi , February 07, 2013
First Published: 01:47 IST(7/2/2013) | Last Updated: 03:06 IST(7/2/2013)

The government has finally stepped in to put a stop to the endless tinkering with the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Capital’s Raisina Hill.
 
Over the years, successive presidents have made additions in the 350-acre Rashtrapati Bhavan campus in complete disregard to the architectural character of the heritage building.
 
Recently, during APJ Abdul Kalam’s tenure, an auditorium and a musical fountain were built. And during Pratibha Patil’s time, a heating system was installed in the swimming pool.

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The move to protect the heritage building — built around 1929 — was finally triggered when Patil’s office proposed a ceremonial hall on campus to accommodate about 1,000 guests in case of bad weather during outdoor ceremonies.

The prime minister’s office shot down the proposal in September 2011 and asked the urban development ministry — under which the Central Public Works Department comes — to first prepare a conservation plan before deciding on new structures.

AK Khurana, CPWD director general, said with approval from the president’s secretariat, “we have appointed the Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage (Intach) to prepare the first ever comprehensive conservation plan for Rashtrapati Bhawan”.

Intach has already started the work and is expected to complete the plan by April. “Once ready, any new addition to the building and its precincts will have to be in sync with the conservation plan,” said AGK Menon, convenor, Intach’s Delhi chapter.

In the first phase, Intach will focus on restoring some of the heritage buildings in the campus and recommend the removal of some structures that disturb the aesthetics of the surroundings.
 
The second phase will involve restoration plans for the main building.

The campus houses about 10,000 people in about 60 structures. “Many of these have come up in complete disregard to the character of the place. We ‘will have to look at the original layout and decide on what kind of structures will fit with the heritage of the site,” Menon said.


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