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Heritage activists want Bengaluru to apply the ‘adaptive reuse’ philosophy to Janatha Bazaar

, ET Bureau|
Sep 12, 2018, 11.38 AM IST
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Bengaluru's Janatha Bazaar is facing demolition
Bengaluru's Janatha Bazaar is facing demolition
BENGALURU: Built in the 1930s, the Opera House on Brigade Road was a popular entertainment venue in the British Cantonment for ballroom dances, theatre performances and Broadway-like operas. The vintage building, once characterised by fine wooden floors, huge chandeliers and a large dance floor, subsequently fell into disuse. Until Tuesday, when Samsung Electronics announced that the heritage structure has been turned into the company’s biggest experience centre ever.

While the 33,000-sqft space will showcase experiences powered by virtual reality, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things, the South Korean tech giant has restored the original façade of the structure and put the interiors to adaptive reuse.

This development comes at a time when another heritage structure — the 83-year-old Janatha Bazaar on KG Road — is facing the threat of being razed to the ground.
Bengaluru's Opera House after adaptive reuse
Bengaluru's Opera House after adaptive reuse

Conservation experts believe that the government has to apply the ‘adaptive reuse’ philosophy to Janatha Bazaar. The small shops that exist could be allowed to continue while the remaining space could be used efficiently, said Meera Iyer, convenor, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, who has filed a PIL opposing its demolition.

She suggested reuse possibilities: an incubator space for startups or high-end retail stores. “The rear of the building has a lovely space where cultural events can be held. Even a museum connected to the building’s past or the city would be good.”

Conservation architect Sridevi Changali said adaptive reuse calls for sensitive design adaptation. “Altering the fabric of the building to an extent that it affects its character is a no-no. In Opera House wooden sun-shades are added at the bottom of the main façade archway. But this has been sensitively done, in good taste.” Another challenge, she explained, would be to decide on functionality of the space by accommodating essentials like public toilets.

Oscars Of The Natural World: 20 New Sites Join The UNESCO Heritage Club

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Sights To Behold

13 Jul, 2017
Essentially the Oscars for sites that are naturally beautiful or culturally significant, the UNESCO World Heritage List is revaluated every year. This week, the World Heritage Committee made 21 new choices during a meeting in Krakow, Poland. The World Heritage Committee decided which of 33 nominated sites were worthy of being named the World Heritage Sites. Eventually, 20 new places were added to the list, including the City of Yazd in Iran and Lake District in the UK.
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Heritage buildings will always be at risk in the absence of legislation, pointed out researcher-historian Poornima Dasharathi. “Villa Pottipati in Malleswaram was an excellent example of adaptive reuse until its new-generation owners lost the sense of connect with it and razed it. Unless the Heritage Regulation Bill or heritage cell is in place, old buildings will continue to be destroyed.”

Urban planner Naresh Narasimhan called for a change in the administrative mindset. “The government is looking at heritage like a real-estate developer and ignoring its social significance. Departments need to let go of this need to make profits. The Revised Master Plan 2031 should not allow FSI.”
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