Smart Chandigarh: Heritage Sec-18 building part of smart plan

  • HIllary Victor , Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: May 27, 2016 16:10 IST
The iconic building stands like an unkempt and uncared guardian. (Ravi Kumar/HT Photo)

As Chandigarh firmly moves on the path of turning smart with Tuesday’s announcement of having made it to the coveted list, it is interesting to note that one of the oldest heritage buildings in town — the four-storeyed, glass-facade Government Press Building in Sector 18 — has been chosen to help carve part of the future for young entrepreneurs and the city.

Envisioned to act as an incubation centre for young professionals in information technology, and art and culture, youngsters will be given space for business at the 2.48-acre sprawling building that, today, stands like an unkempt and uncared for guardian at the Sector 18/9 light points.

The story of the building is a fascinating tale in itself. HT takes you on the journey of the building that could, in five years, be the most modern office complex in the city, if not the region.

63-year young

Built in 1953, the building has seen the city grow and has several scars, strains and moments to show for it. Designed by Edwin Maxwell Fry, an English architect, who was part of Chandigarh Capital Project Team headed by Pierre Jeanneret, the building was in a sense, ahead of its time. In addition to the glass facade, the entire building is fitted with louvered sunshades — an attractive method to obstruct undesired sun and heat gain while allowing natural light to stream through. Most buildings built, even today, do not think so far ahead.

First change

In 1956, the 72-room building was handed over to printing and stationary department of the UT administration with machines imported from Germany.

In its youth, the building remained full of vigour. In the early 70’s, 1,800 employees worked to fulfil orders from various departments of the administration. Over time, recruitment was frozen and now the press has 321 employees working in a single shift.

Ram Lal Paul, deputy controller of printing and stationary, who is working here since 1976, told HT, “The building fell into disuse after several administration departments started taking their printing jobs outside. Now, we are in business again after former UT adviser Vijay Dev ordered all departments to get their work done from here.”

A dust-laden view, not enough staff

Even as the city has changed, the dirt and grime on the glass facade acts as an eyesore, a signal, perhaps of the time-worn nature of the building. When questioned on this, Paul blamed the engineering department, claiming that in spite of several requests to clean the glasses, nothing had moved.

The printing machines were replaced around three years back and the building did a turnover of around `12 crore in the last fiscal.

Problems though remain

“We are short of staff, but officers have always maintained that there is ban on recruitment. Posts are not even being filled on contract,” an employee told HT on the condition of anonymity.

When contacted, Varinder Chaudhary, controller of printing and stationery, said, “We are using the latest machines that have cut down on manpower. We are working to fill vacant posts required for administrative functioning.”

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