CHENNAI: The National Centre for Safety of Heritage Structures (NCSHS) in IIT-Madras is working on an important assignment. Its engineers have been roped in to investigate the cause of ‘structural distress’ encountered by the majestic Rashtrapati Bhavan, official residence of President Ram Nath Kovind.
While the Delhi chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) is preparing a comprehensive conservation management plan (CCMP), the NCSHS of IIT-M has been entrusted with the job of diagnosing structural problems and finding solutions while keeping the heritage property intact.
Arun Menon, Associate Professor, Structural Engineering Laboratory, IIT-Madras, told Express, “We will be conducting a detailed structural analysis of the Rashtrapati Bhavan and our inputs will be used by the INTACH to prepare the CCMP. This is the first such exercise being carried out in 86 years. We have already conducted non-linear tests on portions of the Presidential palace. For instance, we have been examining the behaviour of the central dome. We have unreinforced masonry, reinforced masonry and reinforced concrete layors. So, we have three layers acting together and there is structural distress; we tried to understand where it came from. We have done some non-linear analysis and the initial test results indicated why cracking happened. There are also problems with sunshades,” he explained.
Menon said the institute has already submitted the interim report of the analysis carried out during previous Presidency. “Now, we will be carrying out tests on left-out portions and submit a detailed report. The Central Public Words Department (CPWD), which is the caretaker of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, will be executing the CCMP.
Though Rashtrapati Bhavan is a single unified complex, for pragmatic reasons it was decided to break the project in two phases - first the precincts and then the main building of Rashtrapati Bhavan.
In 2015, in the first phase of CCMP, two clock towers in Schedule ‘A’ and Schedule ‘B’ areas of Rashtrapati Bhavan (heritage structures built by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1924 and 1925 respectively) were restored. Restoration work of both the clock towers was done by INTACH while repair of clocks was done by IIT, Delhi. Now, the focus is on the main building, sources said.
Built as a residence for the Viceroy during British rule, Rashtrapati Bhavan is the second largest residence for any head of State in the world, next only to the Quirinal Palace, Rome, Italy. It took almost 17 years for the construction of this huge monument. Its construction started in 1912 and ended in 1929. Now, the 86-year-old building is showing signs of deterioration. The structure includes 700 million bricks and 3.5 million cubic feet (85,000 m³) of stone, with only minimal usage of steel. It has 355 decorated rooms and a floor area of 200,000 square feet and is consisting of four floors. The British architect Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens was the archiect.
Working with UNESCO to restore monuments in Myanmar IIT-Madras is also officially collaborating with UNESCO and providing structural inputs as part of a pilot project in Bagan in Myanmar.
“Bagan is an archaeological zone where there are about 3,200 monuments of which 398 monuments have been damaged in the earthquake. We are looking at unique vault constructions and some of these structures are retrofitted and strenghtened with reinforced concrete after massive earthquake in 1975. It is a global effort with partners from different parts of world, but the conservation plan is being prepared by an Indian company and we are working with UNESCO,” he said.