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The Haveli Dharampura was built during the Mughal era, a time when facades were adorned by pattern-carved stones, inlays, jharokhas and decorative balconies. When architecture spoke of elegance and status and houses opened up to become one with the streets. With time such qualities of space were washed away, and the charming Haveli, was reduced to another ordinary run-down building, waiting to be demolished. That is, until Architect Kapil Aggarwal and Rajya Sabha member Vijay Goel stepped in, and structured the building back to life.
Shahjahanabad, the old city of Delhi, was built in 1648 AD, conceptualised as a medieval fortified city with a rich Mughal charm. But as the decades went by, dust settled on the traditional chabutras (platforms) and marble courtyards; coats of lime began covering the intricate patterns on the walls; and wires and cables draped the scenery. Declared uninhabitable by the government, the Haveli Dharampura too fell prey to dilapidation and urban pressures.
The journey to revive this Haveli began when Kapil Aggarwal and Vijay Goel discovered scattered traces of history in the much deteriorated structure – elements such as the arches, supported by carved brackets, jharokhas, multifold arches and carved sandstone façades.
The team at Space Architects@ka started by understanding the locality, it’s history and implications, resulting in them undertaking an elaborate study of the urban fabric of Chandni Chowk, and simultaneously surveying, measure drawing and structuring a plan to conserve and restore the Haveli.
Similar to the ambience of Chandni Chowk, the Haveli borrowed elements from Hindu, Mughal, Jain and Rajasthani vernacular architecture. The team of architects spread out to visit the old cities of India to understand the relevance of the heritage elements, and source out skilled workers to employ for the craftsmanship needed to restore the Haveli.
With a vision to conserve the architectural heritage of the Haveli and restore it without meddling with the fundamental Mughal structure, a majority of the old elements were retained, such as the 135-year-old wooden door with carvings, a silver cladded door and the ceiling decorated in Madhubani art.
The existing structure was two-storeyed, wherein the 2nd storey was dilapidated beyond repair. To transform it into a hotel, the architects had to fit various new spaces – such as the restaurant, a museum, shops and an array of new rooms – into the renovated ground and first floors, and an additional 2 floors had to be constructed above.
The main structure was strengthened using epoxy grouting, fibre reinforced plastic wrap and added columns. The slabs were repaired with micro-concrete – a proportionate mixture of portland cements, graded aggregate, specialised quartz aggregates and non-shrink additives.
The traditional architectural elements were either maintained or replicated in the same scale, using stronger, cost effective materials, by the skilled workers the team previously acquainted. The restaurant for instance, retains the existing arched vaults and uses Lakhori bricks to maintain the old-timey ambience. The railings of the corridors on the other hand – made of painted GI metal balustrades and a wooden handrail – are modern clones of the Haveli’s old, unusable railings.
The open courtyard of the Haveli was paved with octagonal flooring, with a water fountain in the centre. The Haveli’s public areas – such as the restaurant, museums and the shops – were staggered around the courtyard. Doing so not only provided a visual connectivity, natural sunlight and ventilations, but also mimicked a traditional Haveli’s community life that flourished around the courtyard. The windows of the Haveli opened on to the narrow lanes of Gali Anar, inviting more of the old city charm into the Haveli.
The preliminary studies helped the team of architects to revitalise not only the structure, but also bring in the flavour of the old city, and restore the much-needed original dignity to the structure.
Kites flying throughout the day, pigeons performing tricks with their trainers, people constantly moving and talking – the Haveli manages to synergise with the curious daily activities of Chandni Chowk and not stand out.
The Haveli holds the privilege of being the first of its kind to portray Old Delhi like never before, and has recently won UNESCO ASIA PACIFIC HERITAGE AWARDS 2017 for Cultural Heritage Conservation.
Recognised by over 40 International and National awards in the last few years, Kapil Aggarwal’s work can be found on his website or his Facebook page.
When visiting Delhi, book your stay at the Haveli Dharampura here.
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