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Focus French connection

French consul general Damien Syed during an earlier visit to the Registry Building in Chandernagore, accompanied by Metro

Calcutta: Registry Building, a derelict colonnaded structure with louvered screens, caught in the clasp of myriad tree roots at the corner of the Strand, declared as condemned by the civic body, is the focal point of an initiative in Chandernagore for the former French colony to reconnect with its built architectural heritage.

Friday will see the launch of Know Your Indo-French Heritage, a week-long multidisciplinary workshop that is taking place within the ambit of Bonjour India, a celebration of Indo-French partnership in innovation and creativity across the country, organised by the French Embassy and Institut Francais.

"It is a collaborative workshop designed for the restoration of French-built heritage which will not survive unless people are proud of the town's assets and realise that this can be a source of economic growth," said French consul general Damien Syed, who reiterated his distress at the state of dereliction of the French heritage structures.

Students from Jadavpur University, Chandernagore College and The Confluence Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture, Lyon, will meet at Chandernagore College on Friday. "They are expected to come up with innovative design solutions as to how public spaces in the town can be better utilised. One of the outcomes of the workshop would be a sustainable business model for the reuse of the Registry Building. IIM Nagpur will collaborate on that," said Aishwariya Tipnis, a conservation architect who has worked to identify the heritage buildings in Chandernagore. Seven buildings from her list, including the Registry Building, have recently been selected for notification as heritage structures by the state heritage commission.

All ideas from the workshop will be exhibited on the Strand as part of the closing ceremony on January 12 for the public as well as French ambassador Alexandre Ziegler to see. "We will also launch a crowd-funding initiative which will possibly be a first in India for restoration of a building," she said.

Four heritage adda sessions will take place involving eminent residents like lighting wizard Sridhar Das and representatives of heritage businesses like confectioner Surya Kumar Modak.

Beyond Chandernagore

France will be the partner country this year at the state government's Bengal Global Business Summit. "For the first time, we will have a delegation of nine or 10 companies," said Syed. This is a significant development after the pullout of a French joint venture from the Haldia port which was blamed on strong-arm tactics by an entrenched lobby close to the ruling establishment. The then ambassador Francois Richier had raised the matter with the state government during his city visit in 2014.

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