By V.N. Prasad
Playing proverbial ‘PING – PONG’ with Lansdowne Building and Devaraja Market
Regarding demolition or reconstruction of the dilapidated, heritage buildings of Devaraja Market and the Landsdowne Building, the “Costs Vs Risk Analyses’’ needs genuine intents. Bold approach is essential for Engineers of the Government to submit analytically sound reports for the politicians to take rational decisions with conviction. Appeasement reports will only cause hurdles than offer solutions.
We have seen catastrophes with onset of monsoon every year. Just imagine a situation when the market is full of people and a major collapse occurs —God forbid. And, our systems know that Indians have very short memory, much to their advantage.
I enumerate my thoughts while I say with conviction that both the structures need to be demolished and reconstructed.
1. ‘Lime Paste’ was in use those days from foundation up to parapets. No doubt, churning used to be very efficient. Bonding used to be excellent. Roofs were built with wooden beams, bricks and lime mortar; termed ‘Madras Roof.’ But when structures exhibit fatigue and failures, more rational approach to residual lives of structures need a critical analysis.
2. With time, lime mortar renders ‘Hygroscopic’ — a phenomenon that retains moisture and weakens structural elements over times. Both the structures seem to be under this distress.
3. During excessive rains, one can expect shock failures — meaning any portion can disintegrate and fall off. A time-dependent phenomenon called ‘Creep’ sets in; that causes differential deterioration and/or failures in different parts/sections of the structure. This is cancerous in nature, as failures/collapses are unpredictable.
4. Further, ‘Expansion and Contraction’ during summers and monsoons add to weakening of lime masonry and roofs; once creep has set in.
5. One may argue that structures like Dams and several major structures were also built during the same time — with lime mortar — and have sustained. Stringent maintenance routines are key to sustenance and these structures, Lansdowne Building and Devaraja Market, were grossly neglected ones, apparently.
6. Highly vulnerable is the foundation in various parts.
Invariably ancient structures that have taken beatings under differential weather conditions will have developed stresses that are extremely difficult or impossible for analyses microscopically. Critical of all is the foundation. Differential settlements of foundation will result in several unpredictable fatigues and/or failures.
Walls and roofs are likely to have developed internal cracks and are vulnerable to failures. Such failures will only manifest under critical weather and/or load conditions — where we virtually have no control. So, technically it is desirable to reinvest.
In my opinion, both Lansdowne Building and Devaraja Market have served the needs of the society long enough to retire them honourably. Both need to be demolished and reconstructed. The demography over the decades has changed drastically. Space utility to suit prevalent situations and projections over the decades going forward needs thorough examination. Surely, we have Architects who are competent to replicate the glory of ancient architectural features. Redesign and reconstruction will accommodate sufficient parking, loading/unloading zones, garbage/waste clearing facilities, better toilets and several other features that will be largely beneficial to the society in the long run.
More or most importantly, best of foundation engineering techniques can never assess the existing condition of foundation in entirety. Therefore, additional loads during renovations/restoration works will surely add loads on the foundation. Such added loads may cause differential settlements. My observations, in particular to the Market, is that it is in a ‘low-lying area’ where ‘Water Table’ appears high. And, therefore the existing foundations may not sustain.
In all my articles in the columns of Star of Mysore, my intentions have always been technically sound and not popular. I am ready for ‘brickbats.’ But am strongly of the opinion that both the buildings need to be demolished and reconstructed. I am prepared to anchor an open seminar on this. In this endeavour, it may not be a bad idea to approach huge corporates who have had excellent Balance Sheets for year ending 2021-22 to undertake total works on ‘Turnkey’ basis — with MINIMAL or NO interference by the local Government. Such corporates would perhaps benefit under the CSR.
A professional team of ‘Project Management Consultants’ with all the tools of pre-commencement routines and ‘QAC’ (Quality Assurance and Control) during execution would be imminent.
Mysuru has waited for more than a decade for a wise and technically sound decision. Revenue-strapped Governments would have done well to demolish and reconstruct the captioned buildings long time ago, when much less of tax-payers’ money would have been consumed. We trust best sense will prevail.
[V.N. Prasad is an independent consultant for highways and bridges and is a project management consultant (retired). A civil engineer with specialisation in design of highways and bridges, Prasad has served in African countries for over 13 years and also served on highway projects in India]