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Marble neighbour for Victoria Memorial

Calcutta, June 12: Auditorium, library, exhibition space, bookshop, cafeteria: all these will be housed in a new three-storey building which will come up on the Victoria Memorial premises.

The building will be funded by Calcutta Tercentenary Trust (CTT), a London-based charitable outfit which has former British high commissioner to India, Rob Young, as chairman.

Work on the Rs 40-crore structure is expected to start next year to coincide with 100 years of the memorial. It will be made of white marble so that it does not “distract” from the character of the monument.

In February, a panel — set up by Calcutta High Court to suggest ways of improving the environment of the memorial — had asked authorities to explore the feasibility of building a visitors’ centre in a separate building to provide facilities of global standards. But it had insisted the building should not disturb the existing landscape and should be compatible with the architecture of the monument.

Memorial authorities today said the 19-meter structure would come up on the built-up area near the Cathedral Road entrance where the staff quarters, toilets and the cafeteria stood. “The grounds will remain untouched,” an official said.

“Exploratory work” for the building began much before the panel sent its recommendations. In 2003, architects Cullum and Nightingale, appointed by CTT, carried out a feasibility study. A memorial official said “in February 2004, trustees of the Victoria Memorial gave their approval in principle to the project”.

According to Cullum and Nightingale, “the building is conceived as a series of separate pavilions linked by and arranged along a garden colonnade” with “a central covered concourse serving as the main entrance into the new building as well as a new entrance to the gardens”.

An official said a “final decision on the design of the structure is yet to be taken”. The scheme is awaiting clearance from the ministry of culture in Delhi which has “in principle” agreed to it.

City-based environmentalists have objected to the proposed building, saying it would cause visual pollution. “We would have no objection if the facility is built underground. But a three-storied structure right next to the monument would look awful,” Subhas Dutta said.

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