Preserving Heritage Architecture of Kolkata alongside Elements of British Design in Kolkata | Spaces & Design

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India was the first country, outside of Great Britain, to adopt golf as a sport. The first golf club in India was founded in 1829 – the Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC). Affectionately known as the “Royal” it is synonymous with the game of golf in this country and is the oldest golf club outside with the elements of the British design.

Preserving Heritage Architecture of Kolkata alongside Elements of British Design in Kolkata | Spaces & Design

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Royal is essentially a golf club and has maintained that character over the years. A substantial effort has been put in over the last decade to enhance the course both on the design and beautification fronts and now Royal is considered to be one of the finest golf courses not only in India but also in Asia. 

The interior architecture was designed and modulated in a manner that this curve now looks symmetrical and anchored as if it was meant to be. The key to this was opening up and “restoring “the five arches back to the hundred-year-old planning of the heritage building. As they say “old is gold!” Bringing the arch proportions back helped in the aesthetics. They now open up to the outside which could be converted into an outdoor deck and form a great ambiance in winters.   

The bar opens up physically and visually into the wonderful golf greens and the blue sky. Earlier it was in an enclosed area that was aloof of the beautiful view outside but now the materials and techniques make it unique and fun yet elegant and a signature bar for golfers not only in Kolkata but also in the country. 

The bar extends into a beautiful curve that opens it up to the golf greens through its heritage arches. Although the curve is asymmetrical, the focus and axis from there make everything else fall in place. The tables, the lounge sofas as well as the ceiling all get a definition. 

“Everything about Golf was an inspiration including the right swing to a golfer, the golf clubs, and the visual treat of golf greens with the blue sky. Restoring the building itself was a huge responsibility and an inspiration. Identifying the right proportion of the arches was a great experience and journey rather than a challenge” concludes Pooja Bihani, Spaces & Design.

The primary challenge, that most of these heritage edifices face, is working around the old load-bearing walls. Looking back at the previous restoration projects- Belgadia Palace and Osteostrong – a wellness franchise nestled in Loudon Mansion, Kolkata, Pooja shares, “The desire to upgrade to all concealed modern services that include wiring, plumbing, CCTV and WiFi set-ups as per set standards. The other challenge is to implement these over room heights of over 19 feet.

Maintaining and touching up the old cornices, the old joist ceilings, the symmetry of all arch openings and doors…the list is endless!” It doesn’t stop there. Pooja goes on to explain that pests and water seepage get better of the thick walls, thus, wreaking havoc on these sturdy structures.

Battling these take up a huge amount of time and effort. Pointing at Osteostrong, the outlet occupies a spot in Loudon Mansion, she further explains, “Loudon Mansion is an early example of European houses in Kolkata. The building stands out amidst the 19th-century structures that line up Loudon Street. The building per se has a simple three partite plan, double storied. Doing up the outlet here came with its own fair share of highs and lows.”

Not only retrofitting the structure but also making it suitable for contemporary use was a challenging task in itself. Turning a heritage property into a modern flagship of a global wellness brand through adaptive reuse– needed thoughtful design interventions with minimum tampering done with the traditional architectural elements. Even though it is always better to retain the original function of the building but in cases when it can’t be avoided—The new function must add to the architectural heritage instead of taking away from it.

The primary challenge was that within the restrictions of the old load-bearing walls we wanted to conceal and upgrade all services like Electricals, plumbing, Cctv, Wifi amongst some to our set standards. The second challenge was to implement these over room heights of over 19 feet. To maintain the old joist ceilings, to maintain and touch up the old cornices, to maintain the symmetry of all arch openings and doors were others to mention a few! 

There was a lot of deviation. Since our main aim was a complete restoration and no harm to the original structure and its elements we decided to be flexible with each design element and room. For eg. in most rooms the door opening segmental arches would not match the original arch openings, so we designed a cornice around these openings and made them look symmetrical. The strategy was distracting asymmetry and aligning to geometry. 

The extravagantly decorated palace of the Maharaja of Mayurbhanj is a heritage building depicting the rarest engineering skill and architectural excellence of a bygone era. The construction of the first phase of the palace began on orders of Maharani Sumitra Devi Bhanj Deo in 1804, who ruled the state from 1796 to 1810.

In phased development, the palace gets its aura of majesty with intricate designs during the rule of Maharaja Krushna Chandra Bhanj Deo (1868-1882), Maharaja Sriram Chandra Bhanj Deo (1882-1912), and finally during the rule of Maharaja Pratap Chandra Bhanj Deo (1928-1948). It is a brick-built double-story structure in the classical Western style having of Doric-Corinthian columns and a mixture of Greek and Victorian architecture.

Lime-mortar has been used in the construction of this palace. Sriram Chandra Bhanj Deo did major additions to the palace in 1892, which has 25 rooms with a dining room, museum, living room, 3 kitchens, 2 living rooms, 2 libraries, a billiards room, 2 gardens, 1 temple, 2 offices with a front and back sprawling lawn with a long drive in from the main road with an adjoining lake at the back. The palace is built on a hill and surrounded by orchards and groves and in close proximity to the Simlipal Tiger and Elephant Reserve. 

Fact File

Designed by: Spaces & Design

Location: Kolkata, West Bengal

Principal Architect :  Pooja Bihani 

Design Team: Subhasis Sau, Tuhin Bhattacharjee, Soumadip Mondal & Silki Agrawal  

Photo credits: Vivek Das

Firm’s Website Link: Spaces & Design

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For Similar Projects>>> Workspace Design that Leverages Creativity & Optimism through its Systematic Design Decisions 

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