Reconstruct Devaraja Market & Lansdowne building keeping the ‘heritage’ facade
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Reconstruct Devaraja Market & Lansdowne building keeping the ‘heritage’ facade

February 26, 2019

“Chief Minister must not fall into the trap of heritage mafia,” says a retired Chief Engineer, who had worked for a Multinational Construction Company

  • New City Law Court buildings are good examples
  • Inside the newly-constructed market, the space earmarked for different products should be in keeping with the modern requirement, not the old design.

By Prof. N. Narayana Sastry,

Professor of Town Planning (retd.) & Urban Planner

Mysuru city is witnessing a great debate on preservation of heritage structures, particularly Devaraja Market and Lansdowne Building. While on one side Heritage Specialists argue to safeguard the structures, the Development Experts voice their concern about the safety of users and efficient use of space in the Central Business District (CBD). These are the points for consideration.

What is Heritage?

Heritage (both cultural and natural) forms a significant resource for a city which needs to be part of the development process. The urban cultural heritage of a city includes both tangible and intangible elements.  This comprises archaeological sites’ remains, ruins and monuments protected and unprotected, natural and man-made water systems, ghats, ponds, bazaars, streets, chowks etc. Intangible resources are the way people live/lived, living space, practices, traditions, performing arts literature etc. Mysuru city has both tangible and intangible heritage resources in addition to natural heritage resources. Mysuru city is unique to be blessed with natural resource like Chamundi Hill which is an excellent backdrop for the city and contributions of our rulers in the past to add cultural heritages  in the forms of buildings, promoting arts and literature.

In this context, the city has acquired Heritage Tag and accordingly the Central Government sanctioned JnNURM (2005-2012). The concerned citizens of Mysuru, in association with the State Archaeology, Museums and Heritage Department, identified and prepared a list of around 230 buildings for preservation and conservation. The list includes Government, semi-Government and Private buildings.  Government has a say as far as its property but cannot directly intervene in private buildings. Incidentally, Mysuru city does not have a single ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) monument within the City Corporation limits.

The two buildings under discussion in city are only listed as heritage structures but do not have any legal sanctity.  At most they come under State Archaeology for maintenance but the question is: Are they doing anything? Devaraja Market and Lansdowne Building are the properties of the City ULB — Mysuru City Corporation.

Let me come to the point, that no doubt these two buildings are nearly centuries old so also many houses in Agraharas in the city are also century-old. The Market was built to cater to the needs of the city and it was planned to meet the basic requirements of the city with limited population. People were happy up to 1990s to visit and get the fruits and fresh vegetables in addition to other household goods. Lansdowne Building was basically to cater miscellaneous services like book shops, services like typing etc. In fact, this building housed up to 1970 a Middle School and I happened to be the old student. Both the buildings are allowed to be used, disused, overused and misused.

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Devaraja Market was planned for a limited use and as seen in the past, there was enough space to freely move around to buy your fruits and vegetables.  Today it houses nearly three times the sellers and vendors — legally rented and illegally sublet shoppers.

Demolition or Preservation?

Firstly, the Market does not have capacity to accommodate the present on-going business. Secondly, it cannot hold many people particularly the days preceding the festivals and fairs.  Imagine if there is a disaster like collapse of the part of the building (happened in the past), fire or any unforeseen disaster, does it have an escape exit to ensure the safety of the people during the peak business hours? In 1980s, there was a fire accident in the market due to short-circuit but the fire tenders could not do much as they have no entry point or even to access water to douse the fire.

I would like to ask the Heritage experts what architectural features, unique building facades, domes or even the building materials worth the heritage the Devaraja Market has for preservation? Their concern is fine to preserve the Heritage buildings but not at the cost of life. They are comparing these two buildings with Mysore Palace. The Palace has a number of unique architectural features and it is better maintained thanks to the income generation and its utilisation in maintenance. To me, the two buildings have outlived its utility in serving the requirements of the city, but some people visit as they have no choice to get their requirements under one roof at the                                                     cost of safety. 

READ ALSO  Devaraja Market Reconstruction...

Two incidents of collapse of the building on the Northern side and South Eastern sides should be considered as a caution sign as far as the safety or carrying capacity of the Market. If any disaster happens, who will be held responsible? Heritage experts will not come into the picture at all.  Therefore, the decision of the City Corporation to demolish the structures and build a new one on the same architectural features is justified and people of Mysuru should support it. There may be conflicting reports by two Committees, but final decision rests with the MCC. Today, 75% of the people do not come to the Market by walk, they come on two or four-wheelers and where is the space for them to park the four-wheelers and sometimes even the two-wheelers do not find  parking space. According to me, the space in the CBD is not efficiently put to use to recover the value of the costly land. There is demand for the space to sell the daily and weekly requirements but also space for professionals besides space for parking of vehicles.

What Next?

The Revised Master Plan for Mysore Planning Area has already dealt with this issue and suggested for Redevelopment (Reconstruction).  In many cities like Delhi, Chennai and Bengaluru, this type of Urban Renewal has taken place and it has resulted in decongestion and better utilisation of the space. Technology and building materials are available to redesign and to reconstruct/redevelop both Devaraja Market and also Lansdowne building. We have experts in Karnataka who can redesign keeping all the architectural features like elevation on all sides with appropriate colours to look the same. In Devaraja Market, there is a slope of about 7 to 8 feet from North to South and the basement could be designed for vehicular parking without any hassles, ground floor and part of first floor for the present users/tenants and part of the first floor to be rented for Professionals like Lawyers, Medical professionals (only Consultants), Architects, Business Advisers and Chartered Accountants. 

These groups not only keep the space in good condition but also ready to pay the Market rent. The Special Regulations under RCDP 2031 stipulates only G+2 and therefore the redeveloped market will not cross the current height. I would even urge the MCC to go for Public-Private Partnership. The developers should adhere to the basic features of the Market and MCC is only letting the space and redevelopment by private party on any one of the PPP models of BOT/BOOT. 

Lansdowne Building area has limitations for parking but shops and professional space could be created and the present occupants will be ready to pay the rent with the entire road to be made a Pedestrian Mall.

4 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Reconstruct Devaraja Market & Lansdowne building keeping the ‘heritage’ facade”

  1. RAJA CHANDRA says:

    It is obvious the learned professor is a confused man . At one point he questions what architectural features, unique building facades, domes or even the building materials worth the heritage the Devaraja Market has for preservation? Yet he contradicts himself by saying – Reconstruct Devaraja Market & Lansdowne Building Keeping The ‘Heritage’ Facade ! Quixotic to say the least !

    He fuhrer says these markets have outlived its utility ! To buttress his tall claims he quotes about parking problems and the need for the space in the CBD to be efficiently put to use to recover the value of the costly land. We all know Devaraja Urs Road is a new road planned by the MCC with Shopping Bazaars on either side of the Road on similar lines as the impugned markets/ bazaars! Yet shops on Devaraja Urs Road are everything the learned professor sats. they neither have Heritage Value, Building aesthetics nor do they have parking facilities or justify the cost of land ! Then why not demolish them and rebuild them with a Heritage facade of the Lansdowne Bazar with adequate underground parking facility ? Have the post independent architects and city planners created anything of aesthetic value or utility value in Mysore City ? A Garuda Mall created by MCC to serve vested interests has not served any purpose and has failed to take off ! Law Courts created by the so called experts in Hubli or Kalburgi are poor replica of HC / Attara Kacheri of Bangalore ! Reconstruction is such a sham and disgrace !

    No one would have argued to save the impugned markets if they were unsafe for habitation or crumbling. Even the Northern gate of the Market which was undoubtedly destroyed by criminal minded vested interests ( Enough evidence is available) still has not cumbled thereafter ! Whatever limited damage is done is evidently due to utter negligence and poor annual maintenance . A case in point is Russel market which faced similar attacks and even fire arson has survived the onslaught. Let us give the real experts as chance to prove the pseudo intellectuals wrong !

  2. Hanuman says:

    From the long-winded article, I draw the attention to this core of sentences: “no doubt these two buildings are nearly centuries old so also many houses in Agraharas in the city are also century-old. The Market was built to cater to the needs of the city and it was planned to meet the basic requirements of the city with limited population. People were happy up to 1990s to visit and get the fruits and fresh vegetables in addition to other household goods. Lansdowne Building was basically to cater miscellaneous services like book shops, services like typing etc”
    Whilst basically agreeing with the above, I would like to correct two misunderstood facts:
    1. “People were happy up to 1990s to visit and get the fruits and fresh vegetables in addition to other household goods”
    By 1980s, Mysuru expanded so much with new extensions and hence local shops and street markets in those extensions, that the purpose of this Market was greatly diminished by then.
    2. ” Lansdowne Building was basically to cater miscellaneous services like book shops, services like typing etc”
    The shops in this building had limited space which meant that there was very limited room for expansion of the business. Hence, the shop owners who wanted to expand their business moved out.The second hand bookshop like Murthy’s bookshop, popular with college students , struggled to find room for second hand books which were arriving considerable number each year. Mr Murthy, the owner, used wisely the footpath space and but was still grappling with limited space to show case his second hand books.
    I agree with the author as he says: “To me, the two buildings have outlived its utility in serving the requirements of the city,”and hence there is little purpose in their preservation as they do not have the unique heritage value either. One of them is associated with the visit of a Viceroy and the other being merely old!

  3. Manava says:

    In the name of Heritage, what do Mysoreans and Bengaloreans attemting to preserve? For Mysoreans , it is Lansdowne building and Devaraja Market and for Bangaloreans for example, it is Russell Market. These are cases in point and there could be others.
    By preserving the above buildings, particularly Lansdowne building and Russell Market, named after the then Viceroy of India and Bangalore Commissioner respectively, is the Heritage issue about the Wadiyars and their benevolent rule which brought into existence these buildings? If yes, it is strange that these two buildings were named after the British rulers, reminding of the Colonial Era. Are these Heritage warriors hell bent in preserving the memory of that Era? Let us face it, the Wadiyars were subordinates to the British representative in India, then called Viceroy or Governor General later, who allowed the Wadiyars to rule the them Mysore state,,but subjected to the broad framework set by the British. That was the nature of the British Colonial Rule in India. Edifices like the Dufferin Clock Tower, Lansdowne Building and Russell Market will keep reminding the British Colonial Rule , which leaders of independent India, wanted to put back in the past and move on, when India became independent. But after 70+ years, since gaining independence, the Heritage warriors want to keep the above edifices,preserving them,, and restoring them with their original colonial names in tact! At the time of renaming the South Parade in Bangalore, the argument in the Mysore State Assembly ( the name Karnataka came into being slightly later) was that in independent India, there is need to clear out the vestige of the British Rule ,which the name South Parade a majestic road in the British Cantonment area of Bangalore for example, represents. Thus the South Parade became Mahatma Gandhi Road. The above logic in the case of Dufferin Clock Tower, Lansdowne Building and Russell Market fails!! Restoration of Lansdowne Building in its original Colonial Era name is the hot talking point today in Mysuru!

  4. Raghu says:

    Excellent article, hope the MCC and the State government understands this and not worry about the Heritage Mafia group.

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