Project Name: Restoration of Byculla Railway Station
Authors: Abha Narain Lambah Associates
In urban India, layers of history create the patina of the built environment. In a city like Mumbai, with influences from the colonial and the industrial past, an array of eloquently made buildings continue to serve their public purpose – an everyday heritage that is used, misused and abused for the demands of contemporary life. It is this heritage that continues to live in collective memory and yet, continues to serve our present-day urbanity as institutions, transport infrastructure, warehouses, government offices, scrapyards and so on. This project continues to serve the citizens of Mumbai as a place for everyday commute.
While there are numerous examples of restoration work in the private realm (with private patronage), the contemporary impulse is to demolish and replace. The authorities in cities with an industrial past of the likes of Mumbai are consistently challenged to make a choice in the favour of or against restoration and adaptive reuse. It is in this context, and with part public funding and part donations by citizens, that the Byculla Railway Station is restored. Serving an extensive civic function, the station is not only a place of collective memory, it is also a building that deserves contemporary purpose and meaning.
Worked upon with clear sense of priorities, this project exemplifies the role design can play as a catalyst and a facilitator for civic heritage buildings to find renewed relevance. The act of restoration, in this case, takes into account the present and future use of the railway station, retrofitting sensitively in its wake, the existing infrastructure, renovating parts of an active building in a cohesive material and architectural language and rendering a sense of renewal to the ancillary infrastructure. Signages, windows, details et al are offered a new lease of life. Innumerable such spaces in custody of the state can benefit from the patronage of the state and public awareness towards restoration.
While the case for preservation of the fine examples of our heritage is adequately made, such projects and the system that enables them mandate our collective attention and ethics of care. Restoration in the public domain can be an arduous process if one has to involve the stakeholders. This project not only presents a technically complex conservation proposal, it also sets a precedent for the imagination and adaptation deserved by our everyday heritage within the paradigms of the culture of professional conservation and therefore, the Restoration of Byculla Railway Station by Abha Narain Lambah Associates is a Citation Project in The Merit List.
Before – After:
Images & Drawings: courtesy Abha Narain Lambah Associates