There has been a flurry of activities at historical Vice Regal Lodge, which is bracing up for President Pranab Mukherjee's maiden visit - scheduled for May 24.
However, lack of funds and slow pace of progress has apparently hit restoration of the building - housing premier Indian Institute of Advanced Studies.
Built in 1888 in Jacobethan style during the regime of Lord Dufferin, the historic building that witnessed scores of historical moments is facing structural distress.
Vice Regal Lodge remained the residence of Viceroys during the British Raj. Renamed as Rashtrapati Niwas after Independence, it was in October 20, 1964, that the then President of India S Radha Krishnan inaugurated the institute.
Weather vagaries have caused delamination of cobbled stones used in construction. Repeated alterations over the time have often compromised its historic interiors.
Extensive water ingress and leakages is threatening architectural safety of the building. There are deep structural cracks in the south face of the building.
Cracks are visible in the lower basement floor and service area near the kitchen. Weathering of stone joints and delamination of stone masonry is also visible in large parts of building.
What really made things worse are that a majority of works were undertaken without seeking specialist conservation inputs. The overlay of modern interventions such as changes in toilet fittings has resulted in deterioration of the British era structure. Modern fittings in the washrooms resulted in water leakages and further led to loss of the historic fittings.
What's more - restorations undertaken under the purview of maintenance work have been piecemeal. Further lack of coordination between various government departments and agencies has hampered the work.
The institute is governed by the ministry of human resources and development, while plans for restoration are drawn by the Archaeological Survey of India - which falls under the ministry of culture. It's central public works department that further executes plans for restoration of the building.
“Civil engineering works and restoration of the building are one the biggest challenges I faced during my tenure,” said Peter Ronald De Souza, institute director, who worked out a comprehensive master plan for restoration and upkeep of the building.
De Souza indirectly blamed lack of coordination between various agencies for slow pace of work.
“Restoration work of the building has been very slow. The biggest problem is that service agencies dot not report to the director. There is no timeline set for completion of work. For this reason we cannot hold anyone responsible for the delay,” he added.
To restore the pristine glory of the building, De Souza envisioned a comprehensive master plan.
Four years ago, the institute engaged a private firm to prepare a conservation master plan. The plan accentuated upon structural stabilsation of the building. Besides, it suggested immediate addressing of water ingress that threatened the structure.
The plan stressed a number of measures for architectural restoration, which included stone restorations, repairs of verandah, revival of architectural details, restoration of doors and windows.
According to rough estimates, the total cost of restoration of the main building was calculated at Rs. 92 crore. The proposals were cleared by institute's governing body and further it was sent to the ministry of human resource development. It's been two years since the institute is awaiting funds from the Centre for restoration of the main building.
Viceroys and Governors-General who occupied Vice Regal Lodge
1. Marquess of Dufferin: 1884-88
2. Marquess of Landsdowne: 1888-94
3. Earl of Elgin: 1894-99
4. Marquess Curzon: 1899-1904 and 1904-05
5. Earl of Minto: 1905-10
6. Lord Hardinge of Penshurst: 1910-16
7. Viscount Chelmsford: 1916-21
8. Marquess of Reading: 1921-26
9. Lord Irwin, Earl of Halifax: 1926-31
10. Marquess of Willingdon: 1931-36
11. Marquess of Linlithgow: 1936-43
12. Earl Wavell: 1943-47
13. Earl Mountbatten: April to August 1947