113-Year-Old Mumbai Bridge Stones Conserved As August Kranti Maidan Gates
MUMBAI, (IANS) – In a unique conservation achievement by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, the discarded stones of a 113-year-old demolished road over bridge have found a new permanent place as the striking new “entrance columns” of the front and back of the 80-year-old historic August Kranti Maidan.
The Reay Road ROB was razed last year as part of the BMC’s policy to bring down all retired bridges, those more than a century old or are in a precarious condition and replace them with new modern structures.
“While demolishing the Reay Road ROB, we noticed some very beautiful, crafted or semi-crafted stones of various shapes and sizes making up around 8-10 main pillars, 20-feet tall, that would have been lost forever… We decided to ‘recycle’ them for an alternative use,” said a senior officer of the BMC’s Heritage Conservation Department, preferring anonymity.
Around that time the BMC had taken up restoration of the historic August Kranti Maidan – where Mahatma Gandhi and other top leaders of the Congress had given the clarion call to the British to ‘Quit India’ 80 years ago on August 9, 1942.
The renovation work was taken up by the Savani Heritage Conservation Pvt. Ltd. guided by its consultant architect Pankaj Joshi of Urban Centre Mumbai (UCM).
Based on UCM’s guidance, SHCPL’ Project Coordinator Jitesh Patel and his team visited the site and checked the heap of black grey ‘precious stones’ lying there and got working on it.
“The stones of the erstwhile ROB pillars were carefully numbered, separated with cranes, then loaded onto trucks and transported for their rebirth, or a ‘new aavatar’ as the entrance-exit gates of the 5-acres ground which is part of India’s Independence history,” Patel said.
The work was massive, and the teams relocated 54 huge, crafted stones of the ROB pier caps each 5 feet by 10 feet, and column bottoms of 4 feet by 8 feet, each weighing between 800-1,000 kg, without damaging them in transit.
“These are tough stones, commonly found in Panvel (Raigad) and bear what is called ‘Mativ finish’, considered the best and smoothest manual finishing achieved in a hammer-chisel operation by the artisans of that era,” Patel said.
For the main entrance and back exit gates, a total of 54 crafted stones have been used and 448 semi-crafted stones of the column base, now erected on a sturdy new RCC raft of 60 square feet.
After the meticulously planned, precise placement of the discarded stones, and six months of hard work, the historic AKM has acquired brand new, innovative, magnificent, and attractive entrance columns.
“The BMC is now carefully preserving old stones from demolished bridges or other buildings and devising ways and means to re-use them imaginatively and artistically to conserve our heritage… We shall unveil more such projects in the coming months,” said the official.