Jamsetji Tata’s residence wins UNESCO honour


March 23, 2015

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Heritage | History

“A good conservation job is like a root canal,“ says architect Vikas Dilawari.“It does not happen quickly and requires many sittings.“Recently , one such root canal took Dilawari 10 years. His hair went from black to grey as he healed the Esplanade House, the opulent home of industrialist Jamsetji Tata built in 1885.

Article by Sharmila Ganesan | Times of India

22_03_2015_006_052_006Dilawari’s decade-long repair and restoration work paid off when the project received an Honourable Mention at the 2014 Unesco Asia Pacific Awards last year for Cultural Heritage Conservation. And on Monday , surely this structural dentist won’t complain on hearing the word `plaque’.

On March 23, Shigeru Aoyagi, director and UNESCO representative to India, will not only present a plaque to the trustees of R D Sethna Scholarship Fund, which owns Esplanade House, but also certificates to all those who contributed to its restoration.“It is a good pat on the back,“ says Dilawari, who carried out work on this tenanted, threestorey edifice in three stages.Located opposite Bombay Gymkhana, this listed heritage building’s upper storeys have been leased out to private companies.

“Repair work was carried out without dislodging or dislocating the tenants,“ says Far rokh M Rustomji, CEO of R D Sethna Scholarship Fund, adding that the rental income was ploughed back into the maintenance of the building.

As funds slowly trickled in over the span a decade, the dilapidated 127-year-old building grew younger.

One of the rare buildings in the city that has wooden floors and a surviving example from late 19th century Mumbai, “its interiors looked like a film set“, says Dilawari. “But it was illmaintained. I didn’t know where to start.“

Original photographs from Tata’s archives helped the architect, who had to redo the zinc curvilinear awnings, terracotta urns and decorative railing in new materials. Besides, rectifying structural problems like the separation of walls in the rear annexe and redoing the balconies were the other challenges. “I decayed while fixing the decay ,“ says Dilawari, laughing.