Tuesday, June 28th, 2022

Heritage Conservation: Case Studies

  Dr. K.M. Soni
  Former ADG
  CPWD, New Delhi
  Usha Batra
  Former SDG
  CPWD, New Delhi

Heritage means something that is handed over from the past as a tradition and includes buildings, artefacts, structures, open and excavated areas, natural features and precincts that are of historic, aesthetic, architectural or cultural significance. As the heritage structures are old, challenge before conservationist, architects and engineers is to conserve them in original conditions, structurally safe simultaneously providing services and facilities which might not have been originally designed but required now due to change of use of such structures keeping their original character intact. These may include essential services like fire safety measures, water supply, sewerage, lighting, air-conditioning, toilets, offices and accessibility provisions.

Heritage buildings may be world heritage buildings declared by UNESCO, monumental buildings of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), or heritage structures declared by state governments/local bodies. India has 40 world heritage sites inscribed by UNESCO, legally protected pursuant to the Law of War under the Geneva Convention. Considerable care and protection are required of these sites as these are largely visited by international tourists carrying country’s reputation.

Further, there are more than 3650 ancient monuments and archaeological sites of national importance belonging to different periods, ranging from the pre-historic period to the colonial period scattered all over the country maintained by ASI.

Then there are heritage structures declared by central and state governments based on their own criteria for heritage structures. These are generally classified as Grade I, Grade IIA and B and Grade III in descending order of importance. Grade I comprises buildings and precincts of national or historic importance, embodying excellence in architectural style, design, technology and material usage and/or aesthetics associated with a great historic event, personality, movement or institution and Grade II (A and B) of regional or local importance possessing special architectural or aesthetic merit, or cultural or historical significance though of a lower scale than Grade I. Grade-III heritage structures are of town importance that evoke architectural, aesthetic, or sociological interest through not as much as of Grade I or II. Grade I heritage structures richly deserve careful preservation, Grade II intelligent conservation and Grade III also intelligent conservation though on a lesser scale than Grade II with special protection to unique features and attributes. Thus, intelligent conservation is the primary requirement for any conservation irrespective of the classification.

No intervention is permitted in Grade I structures either on exterior or interior of the heritage building or natural features unless it is necessary in the interest of strengthening and prolonging the life of the buildings/or precincts or any part or features thereof. For this purpose, absolutely essential and minimum changes are allowed in conformity with the original. In Grade II A, internal changes and adaptive re-use may by allowed ensuring the conservation of all special aspects for which it is included in Grade II. In Grade II B, in addition to Grade II A, extension or additional building in the same plot or compound could in certain circumstances, be allowed provided that the extension/additional building is in harmony with the existing heritage building or precincts especially in terms of height and façade. In Grade III, external and internal changes and adaptive reuse is generally allowed. Development permission for changes can be given on the advice of the Heritage Conservation Committee so that new buildings are taken considering the heritage character of the precincts.

Restoration And Reconstruction
According to Burra Charter, conservation includes the processes of retention or reintroduction of a use, retention of associations, meaning; maintenance, preservation, restoration, reconstruction, adaptation and interpretation and commonly includes a combination of more than one of these. Conservation may also include retention of the related places and related objects that make cultural significance of a place. While preservation protects fabric without obscuring evidence of its construction and use, restoration and reconstruction should continue to reveal culturally significant aspects of the place. Preservation process is applied where the evidence of the fabric is of such significance that it should not be altered while restoration is appropriate only if there is sufficient evidence of an earlier state of the fabric. Reconstruction is appropriate only where a place is complete through damage or alteration, and only where there is sufficient evidence to reproduce an earlier state of fabric or as a part of a use/practice that retains the cultural significance of the place. New work such as additions or other changes to the place may be acceptable where it respects and does not distort or obscure the cultural significance of the place through consideration of its siting, bulk, form, scale, character, colour, texture and material.

Indian Institute of Adavanced Studies, Shimla


Conservation Practice
The studies related to physical, documentary, oral and other evidence, drawings, skills available and disciplines related to work have to be undertaken before planning of conservation. Individuals, groups and associations connected to the work/place as well as those involved in its management should be involved to contribute and participate in understanding cultural significance of the place. The impact of proposed changes, including incremental changes, should be assessed with reference to the heritage and modifications required to retain cultural significance without disturbance of significant fabric for study. Records associated with the conservation of a place should be preserved. New decisions should respect and have minimal impact on the cultural significance of the place. Thus, conservation practice should include understanding the place, assessing cultural significance, identification of all factors and issues, development of policy, preparation of management plan and its implementation. Finally, the results are monitored and plan reviewed.

Case Studies
Case Study 1: Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS): Some Architectural Features
The building that houses the institute was originally built as a home for Lord Dufferin, Viceroy of India from 1884–88 and was called the Viceregal Lodge. It housed all the subsequent viceroys and governor generals of India. It occupied observatory hill, the second highest point in Shimla. The hill was levelled and flattened for the construction. Light blue lime stones and grey sandstones were used and transported to the hill by mules.

The building is designed in Indo-Gothic style by Henry Irwin of the then Public Works Department, now considered as CPWD. The building was provided with electricity and sophisticated fire fighting mechanism through wax-tipped water ducts which is functional even today. The British brought some of their latest technologies to Shimla while building it. Many historic decisions have been taken in the building during the Indian independence movement such as ‘Simla Conference’ held in 1945 and the decision to carve out Pakistan and East Pakistan from India taken in 1947. Some of the important architectural features of this building are:

  1. Switches in brass.
  2. Fire fighting mechanism through wax-tipped water ducts which is functional even today.
  3. Well lit corridor at entrance with glass roof, beautifully carved balustrades, arches and panelling.
  4. Prisms in ceiling with one row fixed and one hanging. This system transfers maximum light inside falling from any angle.
  5. The 19th century clock needs winding once in 2 days, displays correct time and displays actual position of moon.
  6. Drier room using the technology for drying clothes. Hot air comes up through perforated floor having hot water pipes running below and dries clothes spread in the room.
  7. Rectangular rain water pipes (RWP) in harmony with stone shape and colour. One damaged pipe was got specially fabricated for replacement to maintain the heritage character. Two other pipes also are matched with colour, retain the beauty near entrance due to no leakage problems even today.
  8. The fire place with decorative wooden panelling all around and decorative brass work in front and decorative tables on both sides demarcate the heritage character.
  9. Rich wooden panelling, false ceiling, brass lights and chandelier denoting the heritage character.
  10. Interior of the library with decorative ceiling work and merging arched wall with finely detailed wooden railing demarcates heritage character.
  11. The main entrance with terrazzo flooring and the heritage lights in ceiling at entrance and hanging down in corridor. Stone jambs add to the strong heritage character of the building.
  12. A bell made of eight metals, presented by the king of Nepal was available for display upto April 2010.
  13. The lawn in front of the lodge is above a rain water harvesting tank designed and constructed during 19th century.
  14. It was the first electrified building in Shimla. This electricity was produced by the steam engines brought from Britain.

The splendid heritage features have to be preserved. CPWD is planning to carry out the conservation in a phased manner preserving the original character and past glory of the building.

Case Study 2: Gortan Castle Building, Shimla
The building was commenced during November, 1901 and completed during May, 1904. The original design of this building was conceptualized by Sir Swinton Jacob with the expenditure of Rs 13,42,901. Presently, it houses the office of Pr. Accountant General (A and E) and Accountant General (Audit) of Himachal Pradesh. It has many special features which resemble to the Neo-gothic and Rajasthani style, some of which are summarized as under:

  1. Load bearing stone masonry walls in lime mortar of varying thickness.
  2. Use of composite masonry stone walls with coursed rubble on exposed face and random rubble on hidden face.
  3. Roofing in high pitched Nainital pattern iron sheets.
  4. Roof canopies.
  5. Flag post and spires on roof.
  6. Stone ornamental balconies, jharokhas, railings, brackets, facia, cornices, coping, soffits and jambs.
  7. Wooden floors on steel girder in attics.
  8. Glass roof in central staircase.
  9. Wooden spiral service staircases.
  10. Wooden ornamental brackets and eve boards.
  11. Cast iron railings with combination of wood work on central staircase.
  12. Wooden ornamental trusses on central staircase.
  13. Jack-arch intermediate floors.
  14. Central courtyards.

The brackets are made in a single piece of sand stone. The ornamental carvings are provided on these brackets further enhancing the aesthetics of the structure. Balconies are having ornamental stone work in Rajsthani style on jalies, balusters, handrails and brackets. Ornamental copings and stone ornamental arches/mehrabs at number of locations enhance the aesthetics of the structure. Stone ornamental facia on doors, windows and many other locations on the structure such as central courtyard, external façade of corridor wall etc., stone ornamental cornice and sand stone chimneys add to the heritage look of the structure.

Gorton Castle Building, Shimla


Major fire broke out on 27-28th January, 2014 causing massive damage to the building. Top two floors including roof had been totally gutted in fire causing severe damages including structural damages to most of the components of the building. All iron trusses, roof sheets, iron girders, steel tables, furniture and various other steel items were totally melted and distorted. The table glass and other glass items also melted. Stone masonry walls expanded and disintegrated. Stones got fragmented and are getting chipped off easily showing sign of very low residual strength. All wooden items such as wooden trusses, wooden boarding under roof sheets, wooden plank floors and false ceiling were totally gutted in fire.

Re-establishing the office functioning from the left out portion of the building was the main concern. Temporary electric supply was provided to the ground floor first after taking necessary safety precautions. 80% of the left out portion was made re-operational within next 3 months. In order to make ground and first floor re-operational, repairs to doors and windows, painting, distempering, removal of hazardous materials, making of water supply and sewerage lines re-functional and many other connected activities were carried out including temporary roofing on the entire structure to make it safe against any further damage.

This building is listed as heritage building by Himachal Pradesh Government and Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), Government of India, New Delhi. To take care of all such heritage buildings falling under ambit of MoHUA, a dedicated heritage cell under MoUHA is functioning. After inspection of the building and considering retrofitting measures suggested by CBRI Roorkee and original drawings of the British architects prepared during original construction, the followings recommendations are made to retain the heritage character of the existing building:

  • Walls to be reconstructed using matching stones with lime/cement mortar.
  • Similar type of floor finishes as already existing i.e. mosaic/cement concrete flooring.
  • Minimum amount of false ceiling to be used. Items for false ceiling proposed are calcium silicate/aluminium perforated/aluminium strips.
  • All the doors to be built as per original design and specifications.
  • Door/window frames and shutters, staircase roofing and railing, eve boards, jalis, cornices and arches are to be provided matching to the existing ones.
  • All toilets with modern fixtures and tiles.
  • Energy efficient lighting and central heating system to be redesigned and provided.
  • Fire place to be restored, but not to be used.
  • Open court yards to be maintained. However all round chhajjas added in court yard are to be redesigned to merge with the building features.
  • Chimney’s feature to be retained for aesthetics but vent pipes to be sealed.
  • All external walls to have exposed stone finish as existing.
  • No lift available in the existing building. Machine less/capsule type lifts with features matching to building features may be provided.
  • Provisions to be made for barrier free norms, rain water harvesting and DGUs.
  • All services may be redesigned keeping visual aesthetics in mind. A well documented comprehensive scheme to be developed for the entire building.
  • All unauthorized constructions are to be removed. Original building external envelope to be reclaimed. A clear 6 m wide access all round the building for fire tenders should be provided.
  • Various features such as cornices, balconies, jharokhas, eves board, jams, sills, soffits etc to be redeveloped in harmony with the existing ones.
  • Appropriate seismic retrofit measures to be provided as per recommendations of CBRI, Roorkee.
  • Additional fire protection measures to be adopted during restoration of the building as per prevailing norms.

In addition to above, there is a requirement to cover the open courtyards and also to cover the open corridors on top floor/terrace level. It is very challenging as the top floor has many floor levels and many attic floors. Providing roofing to take care of rain and snow disposal by covering the entire building having flooring at various levels is a herculean task. The courtyards which were previously used for rain and snow disposal are also to be covered. It has been decided to prepare a study model with roofing in transparent material to see all the floor levels below and also to study the rain and snow disposal. It has also been decided by the heritage cell to remove all shabby looking chhajjas, grills and glasses provided for protection from rain after covering the courtyard. The existing toilets of the building are being re-planned and reconstructed at the same location.

Case Study 3: Western Court, New Delhi
Western Court at Janpath, New Delhi was built during pre-independence period as a hostel for legislative councillors of Imperial Delhi. It is a Grade II heritage Building. As per bye-laws, internal changes by and large may be allowed in Grade II A heritage building subject to strict scrutiny. In Grade II B, in addition to above, extension or additional building in the same plot or compound could in certain circumstances be allowed provided that extension or additional building is in harmony with the existing heritage building(s) or precincts especially in terms of height and façade. Accordingly, design of new constructed 4-storied Annexe building reflects the built form of the existing building in terms of linear planning, symmetry, number of storeys and classical character of the building and green ambience .

LOP, Western Court Existing Building LOP, Western Court with New Annexe Building


Within height of 3 floors of existing building, new construction has been worked out for 4 floors. Two basements are provided which cater to parking requirements of existing and new constructed Annexe building. Earlier only existing surface parking could serve the purpose. Other features are as given below:

  • Plot area : 31,408.45 Sqm.
  • Permissible ground coverage : 9422.53 Sqm.(30%)
  • Total ground coverage (Existing + proposed) : 5891.51 Sqm (18.75%)
  • Total built up area (Existing + proposed) : 19036.41Sqm (60.6%)
  • Permissible FAR : 120
  • Proposed FAR : 60.6
  • Parking required : 381 ECS (2 ECS/100 Sqm.)
  • Parking provided : 381 ECS (Open: 195, Basement: 186)

Main character of the existing building has been retained in newly constructed building as shown in some of the photographs. The upper row is showing features of the existing and lower row of the proposed building.

          Western Court Existing Building New Annexe Building                   


The main architectural character of the building has been retained in the newly constructed building. Due to ground area used for construction of new building, two basements are provided to cater the parking requirement of both the buildings. The entrance porch not provided in existing building has been provided in the new building using the architectural features of the existing building. Hard area at entrance of existing building has been replaced by beautiful landscaped garden enhancing the beauty of the area. Arched opening with keystone has been retained but proportions of rectangular openings have been changed, also horizontal member has been added reducing the grandeur character in the new building. Balustrades have been replaced with modern glass lowering the heritage character. Although, there is change in joints between column and slab and column and beam but the architectural character is not altered. Change in door detail does not change the exterior character of the building. Although detailing of projection at roof level differs from the original existing detail and would have looked much better if followed in new building but does not lower the main architectural character. Solar PV system provided on rooftop of existing as well as new building is the need of the hour and is not visible.


  • Location of Heritage building increases the pride of residents in their community and provides good ambience.
  • Conservation, restoration and reconstruction measures are interconnected, so that, according to the circumstances, they may be carried out one after the other or simultaneously.
  • Use of inappropriate methods cause great deal of unintentional aesthetical and technical damage.
  • Written and photographic records of restoration work can prove to be very useful for future reference.
  • Whenever a building is listed as heritage building, changes carried out prior to listing, which don’t match to the heritage character of building must be reversed for retaining its heritage character.
  • Good technology used in heritage buildings may be reconsidered for providing in modern buildings including use of prisms as used in IIAS Shimla and exposed pipes without leakage even after more than 100 years of their use.
  • Architectural features and their effect must be studied carefully and appropriately so that essence of heritage character is not lost.


  1. The Burra Charter (2013). The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance, Australia. Incorporated International Council on Monuments and Sites.
  2. Batra, Usha (2018). Role of Architecture in Heritage Conservation and Restoration, Preliminary publication of Indian Buildings Congress, 26(1).
  3. Soni, K M (2018). Preservation of Heritage Structures”. Preliminary publication of Indian Buildings Congress,
    26(1), 7-18.
  4. Soni, K.M. & Batra, Usha (2020). Global and Local Retrofitting of Buildings, CE&CR, 33(10),
  5. DPR of Gorton Castle building at Shimla by CPWD
  6. DUAC report of western court building, Janpath, new Delhi
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Institute_of_Advanced_Study

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