A much-needed heritage building conservation centre will be set up in Calcutta in two months, said conservation architect Manish Chakraborti.
It will provide a support system for all conservation projects, training in the use of lime in such work instead of the all-pervasive cement, and a conservation laboratory and publish guidelines as well.
Chakraborti, along with Bhaskar Sengupta, chief engineer, Rabindra Bharati University (RBU), organised on Saturday a discussion on conservation to celebrate World Heritage Week from November 19 to 25. The discussion was supported by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Intach, West Bengal Heritage Commission of the state government and RBU. It was held at Currency Building, which is being restored by ASI.
Artist Shuvaprasanna, who heads the heritage commission and promised Chakraborti all help for this proposed centre, however, sounded a note of warning on the difficulty of working with societies and trusts. He cited the case of the trust in charge of Jagadish Chandra Bose’s effects, hidden from the public eye for years.
Amal Roy, the deputy director of State Archaeological Survey, offered funding for the centre, while Anindya Karforma, director-general, project management unit, Calcutta Municipal Corporation, offered the gas crematorium behind the Mallikbazar cemetery as the project site. RBU vice-chancellor Karuna Sindhu Das offered the Jorasanko campus for the purpose.
Efforts have been made for about four years to set up a heritage building conservation centre, ever since Intach brought renowned conservation architect James Simpson. The idea of setting it up on the Scottish cemetery premises in Karaya was broached. Last heard, the Scottish cemetery project to train masons is happening but at a snail’s pace.
Chakraborti said the centre was meant to provide a support system for both government and private organisations. It should be an independent body, though initially supported by the government, and formed by Indians well versed in conservation protocol.
He regretted that funds were not allocated even for “listed” heritage buildings. Bhaskar Sengupta said the museology course at RBU, which has a centre for studies of restoration of heritage, would be expanded and the thrust would be on interdisciplinary training.
T.J. Baidya, regional director, ASI, said the organisation was trying to rebuild the Currency Building dome, which had been demolished. An auditorium for 100 people will be built in the Dalhousie Square heritage building.