Grant Medical College

Proposal for restoration of the original college building built in 1845

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Proposal for restoration of the original college building built in 1845

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INTRODUCTION

Set within the campus of the J.J. hospital is an ensemble

of buildings within a garden setting, occupying the corner

plot on the intersection of Sir J.J. Road & Ramchandra

Bhat Marg. Among the most spectacular of these

buildings is the historic Grant Medical College building, a

mock Tudor structure with crenelated towers, pointed

Gothic arches and a series of octagonal corner turrets, a

pioneering building with a neo Gothic stylization that set

the trend for subsequent Neo Gothicism in Bombay.

The institution has the distinction of being First Medical

College and Public Hospital. Haffkine developed the

plague vaccine in this Laboratory in F.D. Petit building –

a building within the same complex. The building is a

Grade II B heritage structure, listed under Serial no. 527

(iii) of the Heritage Regulations for Greater Bombay

1995.

Under the Heritage Regulations, Grade II is defined as,

buildings of regional or local importance, possessing

special architectural or aesthetic merit and cultural or

historical value, though of a lower scale than in Heritage

Grade –I. They are local landmarks, contributing to the

image and identity of the City. They may be the work of

master craftsmen, or may be models of proportion and

ornamentation, or designed to suit a particular climate. “

The heritage regulations restrict the interventions to a

Grade II building by stating, “Internal changes and

adaptive reuse will be generally allowed, but external

changes will be subject to scrutiny. “

 

HISTORY

The Grant Medical College along with the JJ Hospital building was constructed by 1845, among the

earliest public structures in the Neo Gothic style to be built in Bombay. Christopher London

mentions in his book, “Two health care facilities, the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy Hospital and the

Grant Medical College, both designed by unknown architects, were Bombay’s first experiment with

the neo-Gothic style. Significantly, each was constructed in a mixture of brick and rubble stone

faced with chunam (lime stucco), following the style of the city’s early neo-Classical buildings. The

hospital opened in 1846, although it began in 1834 as a dispensary. The original hospital is now

demolished, and the Grant Medical College is in a state of serious disrepair.”

 

Built in a mock Tudor style with crenelated towers, the structure is among the oldest educational buildings surviving in the city, set in the JJ Hospital Complex. The main entrance to the building leads onto

sweeping timber staircases on both sides through a short passage. The building has a central atrium space – void through the entire height of the building, enabling to view the skylight. The walls are

punctuated by Victorian neo-Gothic arched openings. On the upper floor, the staircase leads to an open office layout with different departments and offices. The second floor is in disuse and the terrace level can be accessed from the second floor level. Victorian Neo-gothic arches, carved wooden balusters, pointed

arches and the windows with fanlights, turrets and crenelated parapets are the main character defining elements of the building.

The interiors of the building were designed to be extremely elegant, with timber flooring, high ceilings, elaborate fenestration details and ornate carved cabinets. Some of the original cabinety survives to this

day, with heavy ebony and teak wood detailing. Carved timber balusters on the circular railing on second floor wind around a central void that on the upper floor is lit by a spectacular skylight.

 

ISSUES AFFECTING THE STRUCTURE: WATER INGRESS & STRUCTURAL DISTRESS

Extensive water ingress and leakages have threatened the architectural safety of the building. The original lime based plasters and renders have been greatly damaged over the years with

extensive leakages and atmospheric weathering. Many of the masonry walls exhibit cracks that require careful consolidation. At the upper level, there are extensive seepage problems along the

skylight and window openings. The timber frames have become loose and disconnected from the walls. The window and door frames and shutters on the second floor, overlooking the flat terrace

have deteriorated. Some of them have broken glass panes and others’ frames are disjointed from the masonry walls. There are cracks seen from the top of the arch running to the roof.

This vastly deteriorated state of the building is due to advanced neglect and very poor levels of maintenance over decades. The building is in urgent need of repair and restoration and the

restoration process needs to be undertaken under specialized supervision, using like repair of matching lime mortars and renders to ensure restoration standards.

NEED FOR RESTORATION OF STAIRWELL & SKYLIGHTS

The main entrance leads onto sweeping timber staircases on both sides through a short passage. The building has a central open space through the entire height of the building, enabling a view of the skylight. On the upper floor, the staircase leads to different

departments and offices. The second floor is in virtual disuse and used to dump old furniture and the skylight shows severe deterioration and requires immediate repair.

 

NEED FOR REMOVAL OF INCONGRUOUS ADDITIONS: FALSE CEILINGS, AD HOC PARITIONS & LINOLEUM FLOORING

Over the years, insensitive alterations and additions have resulted in the loss of architectural integrity. Wooden floors have been covered with incongruous linoleum flooring in some areas, while ad hoc partitions and false ceilings have virtually destroyed the spatial

ambience of the grant lofty interiors.  

NEED FOR UPGRADATION OF ELECTRICAL & PLUMBING SERVICES

Incongruous electrical fittings such as ad hoc wiring criss crossing over arches and a host of tube lights have not only damaged the aesthetic quality of the interiors, but also are in need of dire upgradation of the electrical services and wire management.

NEED FOR RESTORATION OF SPECIAL FEATURES & FURNITURE

Specialised architectural restoration of the interiors needs to also look at the issues of careful restoration of the original fittings, furniture and artefacts that are authentic to the historic building. These include not only the finely carved design of the windows, but also some spectacular cabinetry, original furniture such as book shelves and cabinets that survive to this day, though in a highly damaged and deteriorated state. Also in need of careful

restoration, is the original colour palette of the interior wall finishes and paints over the original cast iron columns, handrails and balusters.  

PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CONSERVATION 

The structure is faced with severe distress and deterioration of wooden support systems. Cracks are observed in some masonry walls on the upper levels and the extensive roof leakages combined

with poor maintenance and an absence of periodic maintenance and repair has exacerbated the problem. Wooden rafters and support beams have been exposed to seepage over extended periods,

causing wet rot of structural wood. These structural issues need to be addressed immediately. Non destructive testing, opening out of some critical sections of the wood work and monitoring the

cracks is critical and should be taken up urgently to accurately assess the extent of damage. Based on the findings, the option of various structural repair strategies should be explored. It is critical to

ensure that the structural interventions are in keeping with the architectural and aesthetic ambience of the building, respect the historic fabric and prevent further damage while respecting the

authenticity of material. It is essential to note however, that any bracing or stirrups used, should use non-corrosive fixings such as stainless steel or phospho-bronze, so as to prevent further damage

to the structure due to resultant corrosion of ferrous fixings, that could eventually lead to the splitting and spalling of the masonry.

In order to assess whether the cracks are increasing, i.e. whether they are dynamic cracks, monitoring is of extreme importance. This can be done either by using glass tell tales or other methods of

monitoring like using “Demec” gauges etc. Plumb techniques would also be important in assessing the lean of the corner turrets and to arrive at any decision regarding their movement and the

resultant need to strap or brace them. Other NDT tests recommended may include endoscopy and other techniques.

Seepage is seen in the building, primarily due to two reasons. The first is that of water ingress through the roof, skylight and terrace areas, masonry cracks or damaged window frames and shutters.

The second major cause of water seepage in the building, is attributed to leakage in plumbing pipes and damaged rain water down takes. This is most visible along sections of the toilet area on the upper floor and through damp patches seen along the fašade indicating water runs rain, causing seepage in the adjoining masonry. Water seepage seen in the building, is not only a major cause of efflorescence and salt migration in the masonry, but also causes deterioration of lime plasters and renders, resulting in the gradual disintegration of the masonry. Furthermore, at the point of contact of the wooden beams and rafters and moist wall areas, the wood is prone to wet rot and eventual decay. This issue needs to be resolved by repairing and re-setting roof tiles and terrace water proofing, cleaning out choked water outlets, re-plastering external walls in matching lime plaster, structural consolidation of damaged wooden members, repairing damaged window frames. stitching masonry cracks and upgrading the plumbing systems. The damaged wooden joists need to be carefully identified and replaced with matching sections of wood using splice repair techniques.

ARCHITECTURAL RESTORATION: EXTERIOR PLASTERS & WINDOW RESTORATION

There is a need to restore the exterior and interior plasters of the building. Constructed in 1845, the building originally employed lime based plasters. These allowed the building to ‘breathe’ and

moisture to evaporate. Subsequent plastering in the building has erroneously been in cement based plasters which are non authentic to the historic fabric and reduce the ‘breathability’ of the historic

masonry. It is recommended that the restoration employs lime based plasters that would be respectful to the original material. Along the base of balustrades, and in patches along the terrace,

vegetational growth is visible. This growth can be further subdivided into the categories of weeds, ficus plants and moss growth. Of these, growth of ficus plants is most dangerous, causing cracks

within the structure, as the root system penetrates through the masonry. Ficus plants should be uprooted immediately, and suitable biocides injected into their root systems to check further growth.

The other vegetational growth like moss, lichens and algae is less threatening, but tends to trap moisture. Moss growth can be scraped off, and then treated with a biocide to prevent further growth.

However, some traditional chemical weed killers tend to contain Calcium chloride salts which may build up residues of soluble salts that could be detrimental to the stone masonry. An ammonium

based biocide is thus most suitable. All incongruous accretions like chajjas, plywood partitions, false ceilings and the like should be removed to restore the building to its original glory. The incongruous window infills and chajjas should be removed. This report includes a preliminary assessment of the window condition based on visual examination of the elevations. It is recommended that before any detailed specifications and tender documents are drawn up for work on site, a more detailed examination of the window condition is conducted, with window schedules, individual condition drawings noting condition of paint, frame, stiles, rails, glazing, hardware and shutters.

UPGRADATION OF ELECTRICAL & PLUMBING SERVICES

In order to fully secure the building fabric against any further deterioration due to faulty and damaged plumbing, leaking rain water pipes and even the threat of fire caused by electrical short

circuiting, it is critical to undertake a complete and comprehensive upgradation of the electrical ,plumbing and fire protection services in the building. This not only has a direct bearing on the

structural integrity of the building ( by redressing issues like water seepage and resultant wet rot caused by leaking pipes), but also on the architectural integrity of the internal and external spaces (

often disfigured by ugly electrical and pipe routing). Similarly, all rain water down take pipes and other plumbing and electrical wiring routes that may damage mouldings or decorative elements or

obscure the elevational integrity need to be summarily removed and re-routed. Any comprehensive conservation project for the Grant Medical College building thus needs to include the upgradation

of services as an important priority within its plan.

RESOLVING THE SPACE USAGE

In order to utilize the available building in the best possible manner, without overloading the structure or damaging its visual and structural integrity in any manner, it is essential to address the optimal

usage for certain spaces within the building. At present, the entrance lobby is most poorly addressed, with a host of cupboards clogging the main entrance and with no reception counter or

information desk. A major issue in resolving the present usage of the building, is the restoration of the damaged visual integrity of rooms due to ad hoc partitions and false ceilings.

CRITICAL NEXT STEPS: OUTLINING A FUTURE STRATEGY FOR RESTORATION

The preliminary inspection identified a host of issues and concerns that threaten the visual integrity and structural safety of the building. However, in order to address them successfully, it is essential

to work out a set of critical next steps to be undertaken and create a systematic action plan for execution of work. This also needs to be undertaken as a stage wise process, in order to best utilize

available funds, resources and time.

1. APPOINTMENT OF A PROJECT CONSULTANT

A project consultant Conservation Architect would need to be formally appointed in for the detailed conservation inspection, formulation of a conservation strategy, detailed designs, drawings,

bill of quantities, preparation of tender documents, obtaining sanctions and assisting the client in the pre qualification of contractors. The conservation architect would also be given the

responsibility of site supervision and would be in turn the Grant Medical College & Sir JJ Hospital Trust ‘sliaison with the contractors and consultants.

2. BUDGETTING & PRELIMINARY ESTIMATION

Based on the decisions of the Friends of Grant Medical College & Sir JJ Hospital Trust, the Maharashtra Government and potential funding, the estimate could range from Rs. 2 crores to

cover basic structural consolidation, to Rs. 6 crores including interior restoration, upgradation of services and space upgradation. The final budget would be based on the approved outline of

works and conservation tasks that could be affordable.

3. FINANCING THE PROJECT - SPONSORSHIP

In order to finance the project work and raise the required funds outlined in the budgets, the corpus of the Trust would have to be supplemented through outside sources- corporate

sponsorship, government grants etc. This may require certain incentives to be worked out for the sponsors and financiers, as also the organisation of fund-raising events, approaching

corporate heads and financial institutions, or through a method of participatory and contributory funding by the alumni, college authorities, the state education department and the P.W.D.

4. CONSENT OF STATE GOVERNMENT/ P.W.D./ COLLEGE AUTHORIITES

The Grant Medical College & Sir JJ Hospital Trust, before embarking on a concrete phase wise programme, would have to first involve the building owners viz: the State Government, the

occupants viz; Maharashtra Government, Grant Medical College and the PWD order to gain their active co-operation for the works envisioned.

5. STRUCTURAL TESTING & DETAILED CHEMICAL ANALYSIS OF THE BUILDING MATERIALS

In order to best ascertain the direction of conservation and kind of techniques and materials to be used in the conservation process, it is essential to conduct a detailed structural examination

of some distressed areas and undertake extensive monitoring and testing. Chemical tests of mortar and plaster samples, as also the salt accretions on the stone surface would be needed to

facilitate decisions on the chemical composition of the new mortars and techniques.

6. HERITAGE & MUNICIPAL SANCTIONS

Being a Grade II B heritage building, approvals and statutary permissions would be required from the Heritage Committee as well as the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation. Only when

necessary approvals and permissions are obtained, would work commence.

7. PREPARATION OF DETAILED SPECIFICATIONS, WORKING DRAWINGS AND TENDER DOCUMENTS

Once requisite funding and a plan outlay is available, detailed specifications and working drawings would be prepared by the appointed conservation architect for actual work on site to

proceed. This would also lead to a more detailed and accurate budgetary estimate and costing for the project.

8. PRE-QUALIFICATION OF CONTRACTORS: Based on the final Bill of Quantities and Tender Documents prepared by the Project Managers, contractors would be invited to bid for the

project.

9. ON-SITE WORK & CONSERVATION TASKS: The on-site work too would have to be worked out in a clear sequence, to allow minimum obstruction of work in the buildings, as well as

optimum utilization of funds. The work may have to be further sequenced, based on the advent of the monsoon season and in some probability, availability of funds. The tasks outlined as (not

necessarily in this order) would be: Structural Consolidation, Conservation of the building shell, Fašade Restoration, Interior Restoration, Spatial Re-organisation, Upgradation of Electrical,

Plumbing services, Restoration of Fittings

 

Author of proposal : Abha Narain Lambah & Associates, Architects.