Chennai, with historically rich records dating from the British era, houses about 2,500 heritage buildings— the highest within any metropolitan area limits in India. While some structures still boast fine Indo-Saracenic architecture, most are in a dilapidated condition due to urbanisation and poor maintenance.
Apart from being evidence of history and places of validation, over the course of time, some have also become alternative spaces of habitation including Ripon buildings, Triplicane police station, LIC building in Parry’s and many other places. A special division, the Building Centre and Conservation Division (BCCD) was created in the public works department (PWD) recently to conserve structures. “The 246-year-old Humayun Mahal in Chepauk palace will soon get a facelift. This will be followed by at least 50 other monuments,” said an official of PWD.
Another heritage committee of the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA) put forth over 250 applications in the past seven years out of which about 20 have been cleared. An official said about 200 buildings would be documented and more than 150 have been documented over the years. CMDA has also proposed a 400-crore project to develop Chennai Central Square near Ripon buildings and Central railway station. Architects said that on-going construction work had caused potential damage to the heritage structures of Chennai including Ripon buildings.
While efforts are being made to conserve authorised heritage buildings under government, a large number of heritage structures owned by individuals that have not been maintained properly are lost through the years.