Old meets new: Lohia speaks on iconic renovation of Presidency corners

Kolkata: Presidency University VC Anuradha Lohia on Tuesday shared her experience on how the iconic professors' common room and Baker building were transformed maintaining the heritage structure in mind.

She was speaking at the launch of a book called 'Kolkata Happening City' by Belani Group to commemorate the 50 years of its real estate business in Kolkata. The book contains 700 photographs including the old architecture and heritage buildings in the city.

Lohia said an infrastructural overhaul of the building was needed when Presidency College transformed into a University.

Earlier, the professors used to sit around a long table in the common room. In 2014, the professors desired to have separate cubicles, AC and WiFi connections and a telephone at the desk. Hence, necessary renovation works were done only by following the heritage norms.

The common room was transformed into a modern room maintaining the heritage. It become possible because of architects like Dulal Mukherjee and Partha Ranjan Das, said Lohia.

The Baker building was also giving a modern touch by keeping the heritage rules in place.

After the renovation work, it has become more spacious. Earlier, around 10 Physics professors used to sit there but now a total of 35 professors sit there. Around 40 laboratories have been set up while the figure stood at 5 before.

The roof of the Bakers lab was damaged that has been renovated to give a new look.

"We preserved the heritage and made the Bakers building and professors' common room modern. We have removed many toilets which were illegally set up under the stair case," Lohia said.

Bratya Basu, the state minister for Biotechnology Science and Technology, said Kolkata has always been a happening city.

On one hand there are old heritage buildings that have stories to tell and on the other there is another part which has seen processions and movements. The various moods of the city are often caught in various films.

Partha Ranjan Das, one of the renowned architects in the city, pointed out there is no clash between conserving heritage and creating something modern.

"We need to set up modern buildings but not at the cost of old heritage buildings. They can exit together. The city's architects and developers are scared to combine both. In the Eastern part of the country, the level of awareness to combine old and new buildings does not exist."

Veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee also pointed out the importance of maintaining the old heritage buildings.

The dignitaries were all taking part in a panel discussion — "Can Kolkata's rich architecture legacy be transformed into competitive advantage?" organised by Belani Group in a city hotel.

Nandu Bilani, Chairman, Belani Group said: "The government must relax the rules for development of heritage buildings. There is some need for relaxation in rules so that they are development friendly. Some buildings along Chowringhee are in a bad shape and need to be restored."

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