Monday, 30th October 2017

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Get set for twin clock towers

One will be the centrepiece of a town plaza in New Town while the other will replicate Big Ben in the heart of Lake Town, reports Snehal Sengupta

  • Published 20.03.15
The clock tower in New Town (Mayukh Sengupta). (Right) The clock tower being built in Lake Town

A hangout zone named New Town Plaza will soon be inaugurated in front of the Home Town shopping centre. The public square is being built on the lines of those seen in European countries and the central attraction will be a 23m high clock tower. 

The tower, that is already up, resembles a fort’s watchtower and has clocks on all four sides. The clocks have been provided by the Anglo Swiss Company and the retro-styled black analogue clocks feature large Roman numbers on their dials.

“The idea was to build a public square in the middle of this township that is flanked by shopping centres. This central square will allow residents to mingle with each other and maybe stay back for a round of adda after a shopping session in either of the two malls here — Home Town and Axis Mall,” said Debashis Sen, chairman of New Town Kolkata Development Authority (NKDA), that is building the plaza. 

There will also be laser lighting at the site. “A 2D lighting system has been put in place here to project different geometric patterns at rapid intervals on the tower. Multi-coloured laser lights will beam rays all over the night sky of New Town,” Sen added. Musical fountains, benches and 10 food stalls are coming up too.

“Residents of Darjeeling are blessed to have a great public square called the Mall where one can just go and do nothing. Residents of New Town and Rajarhat will now have something very similar to boast of,” Sen said.
The plaza is likely to be inaugurated in March but residents have mixed feeling about it. 

“It is great that we are going to get a new hang-out. I plan to check out the laser show as soon as they start it and the food stalls will surely be a hit with youngsters,” said Shreyashi Pal, a techie staying in New Town’s NBCC Vibgyor Towers. 

But others aren’t impressed with the clock tower’s architecture. “It looks horrible. It resembles a watchtower generally seen in forts and is not proportional. The colour combination too could have been better,” said Rangan Datta, a teacher and travel blogger staying in AA Block. “And the effect would have been more imposing had the tower been placed in a traffic roundabout.  

Many said the plaza and the tower are getting hidden by the flyover overhead. “I laud the effort that went in making a public square but the flyover blocks it and kills the charm. Also architecturally, it could have been better. We have lots of stunning clock towers in India but this doesn’t match up to any,” said Tithi Ghosh, resident of New Town Heights, DLF. 

Following the chief minister’s dream of transforming Calcutta into London, Lake Town is about to get a replica of London’s iconic clock tower, the Big Ben. 

Work is on full swing and the tower is coming up at Lake Town crossing. “The tower will be 30m high and will have clocks on all four sides,” said MLA Sujit Bose, who is footing the Rs 1.36 crore bill to built it. “Their faces and digits will be similar to the Big Ben’s. We will also beautify the base with ornamental plants and hedges.”

Big Ben, London

After years of neglect, the strip from Lake Town to Bangur got a facelift last year and now the canal and banks there are picturesque. The clock tower would add to the look. “Lake Town and Bangur have undergone a sea change. We have beautified the stretch along the canal between VIP Road and Lake Town, that till a few years back was used as a dumping ground. Wherever we found space we have undertaken beautification projects and spread greenery. This clock tower will become another landmark in the city,” added Bose. 

The structure will be built around an aluminium skeleton and photographs of the Big Ben, sourced from the internet, are serving as a reference for the builders. 

Residents are welcoming the tower. “Post-beautification, this entire area resembles a model township. Clock towers have an old-school charm and being modelled on the Big Ben, I’m sure it will be a crowd-puller,” said Amiya Bose, a Lake Town resident. Shyamal Sarkar, a 65-year-old Kaikhali resident, wondered what the authorities would call the tower. “Will they call it Small Ben?” he asked.

Iftekhar Ahsan, who conducts heritage walks in Calcutta, feels the authorities should have opted for an original idea. “Instead of replicating the Big Ben, they could build a tower fusing modern and classic styles. Whenever I think of iconic clock towers, the ones in Hooghly Imambara, Metropolitan Building and St. John’s Church come to my mind because of their iconic structures. Too bad that won’t happen here. The New Town clock tower too resembles a war memorial but the laser show would be something new,” he said.

Popular clock towers in Calcutta

New Market: Located on the southern side of New Market, this iconic clock tower has kept watch over the area since 1930. The clock was shipped over from Huddersfield, UK.

Manicktala: At the intersection of Vivekananda Road and Acharya Prafulla Chandra Road in Manicktala crossing stands another clock tower. The marketplace below sells everything from hardware to fish and happens to be one of the most popular in Calcutta.

General Post Office: Located in BBD Bagh the General Post Office building is instantly recognisable for its huge imposing dome and Corinthian columns along the sides. The white building is an outstanding example of Edwardian architecture that was popular in Britain from 1901-1914. The building was designed by Sir Walter B. Granville and built in 1868. The clock was imported from London and cost Rs 7,000 approximately.

Metropolitan Building: One of the structures that has dominated the photographs of Esplanade. The building, characterised by domes, the clock tower and beautiful arched windows, housed Whiteway Laidlaw, a department store, and was known by this name during the British rule. After Independence, Metropolitan Life Insurance Co assumed ownership. Mackintosh Burn and Co built this structure in 1905.

Clock tower in Howrah: The second oldest railway station in the country has a clock in one of its eight towers. However, the most famous happens to be the “boro ghori” inside. Used for generations of people to meet before catching a train, the clock tower is characterised with twin-faced clocks, mounted on imposing wooden frames. They have been keeping time since 1926 while the station itself was built in 1905.