Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya wins UNESCO Award for cultural heritage conservation
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) was conferred with the ‘Award of Excellence’ at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation-2022 on Saturday
Mumbai: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) was conferred with the ‘Award of Excellence’ at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation-2022 on Saturday.
“The conservation approach deftly incorporated both traditional craftsmanship and rigorous techniques for stabilising twentieth-century materials like reinforced concrete... Executed to the highest level of technical excellence, the project sets a standard for the conservation of world heritage monuments in India and beyond,” read the award description.
In late 2019, the museum–in the run-up to its centenary celebration on January 10, 2022—initiated comprehensive repairs, restoration and refurbishment of the main and extension building, exterior and interiors and main dome in a phased manner.
Significantly, the majority of the restoration works, divided in three phases, were completed during the Covid pandemic.
The outbreak of the pandemic in February 2020 coincided with the phase 1 work of restoring external facades and opening up the waterproofing of a few terraces. “We were stuck as the lockdown was imposed and all workers disappeared. In May, we were having nightmares as the temporary roof was unable to protect the terrace and as an emergency a permanent shed had to be made to protect the exposed slab of the European Art Storage Gallery and Conservation lab,” recalled Vikas Dilawari, conservation architect.
While most of the phase 1 work was delayed, the easing of the lockdown came as an advantage since the museum was closed to the public for one-and-a-half years. Once labourers returned, the most difficult work on the interiors in terms of the dome, staircase and the common areas was undertaken. During this time, parts of phase 2 and phase 3 were also executed. While phase 1 entailed repair and refurbishing the interiors of both main and extension/annex building, phase 3 comprised doing the same on the complete connector block. Racing against time, one contractor each for the facade, dome and interiors were roped in.
“The dome was of concern and very elaborate scaffolding was erected in the interiors. Similarly, an elaborate scaffolding was erected on the external part. Thanks to the earlier repairs done in the 1970s, the dome was found to be in good condition,” said Dilawari, adding that painting and refurbishment was undertaken with new lighting and colour scheme that has brought its true grandeur and Indo-Saracenic character.
Dilawari added that credit also goes to consultants Suresh Koke and Krishna Kumar, three contractors and the museum team.
The ₹21 crore restoration project was funded by TCS Foundation. Sabyasachi Mukherjee, director general, CSMVS, described the completion of the restoration and repair work despite lagging by eight months owing to the pandemic, and receiving an award during the museum’s centenary year as remarkable achievements.
“The museum is one of the institutions built by the people and for the people since it is not financially supported by the government,” said Mukherjee. “It is also one of the heritage precincts that has remained unchanged, which is very rare to have in a city like Mumbai.”
Saturday’s award is, however, not the first for the museum. After restoration work by conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah in 2009, the CSMVS had received an ‘honourable mention’ at the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation in 2010. “This was the second major intervention.”
After construction work was complete in 1914, the space was used for many purposes—from a hospital to children and women’s welfare centres. It was on January 10, 1922 that it was finally thrown open to the public as a museum.
Of the 13 projects from six countries – Afghanistan, China, India, Iran, Nepal and Thailand – four from India were awarded
Award of Excellence - Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya
Award of Distinction - Stepwells of Golconda, Hyderabad
Award of Merit - Domakonda Fort, Telangana, and Byculla Station, Mumbai