Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chennai Metro Rail - P.Orr & Sons and the legal fight !


Heard of Horology – from Greek – the study of time - the art or science of measuring time. Clocks, watches, clockwork, sundials, timers, time recorders and marine chronometers are all examples of instruments used to measure time.  The much repeated ‘Heritage building” means a building possessing architectural, aesthetic, historic or cultural values which is declared as heritage building by the Planning Authority/Heritage conservation committee or any other Competent Authority in whose jurisdiction such building is situated.  Building with architectural significance and traditional values are considered for their preservation and conservation.

Its jingle would proclaim that it is the place that people have been buying timepieces for ages ‘kaalam, kaalamaga makkal kadigaram vangum idam PORR & Sons’.  I remember the day in 1975 when my Grandfather gifted me a HMT watch for getting good marks in SSLC (X Std) examination.    The century old building situated on the arterial Mount Road, near ‘The Hindu” office is in news !  The  building was  reportedly designed by architect Robert Chisholm, the pioneer of Indo-Saracenic architecture, a style of construction that originated in south India.

Reports proclaim that the city is in the verge of losing another important heritage building.  It is claimed that the Justice E. Padmanabhan Committee designated 130 year old  P. Orr & Sons building, home to the renowned watchmakers, as a heritage structure. Its existence is in danger due to the ongoing  Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) project.  CMRL states  that only the showroom — a small portion fronting the Anna Salai — is a heritage structure.  There are further reports  quoting  CMDA  that  only a portion of the structure around  4,000 sq ft area has heritage value.  The total building admeasures 15135 sq ft approx.   Metro Rail station comes just opposite this place and they require this place for locating some facilities for the station. 

The famous watch selling company P. Orr & Sons is stated to have originated in 1849 and moved into the current premises in 1873.  The fate of the landmark P Orr & Sons complex hangs in the balance with Madras high court reserving its orders on a public interest petition challenging the proposal to demolish a portion of the century-old structure. Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) had made the PIL. There appears to be no official list of structures that enjoy the statutory protection under conservation rules.

P. Orr and Sons are not the owners and the owners  Associated Publishers, said the acquisition proceedings had been completed and the award had been passed. The cheque for the compensation amount, however, was yet to be received, he said, adding that separate proceedings may be initiated for enhancement of compensation.

While the legal fight is on, does any one care for the old building unless things of this sort happen ?   Owners do not care for old structures and they remain in dilapidated conditions capable of harming those nearby but all expect Govt. to spend and up keep such rickety structures in the name of heritage.  Metro Rail  is to have 12 underground stations at   :  Sathiyamoorthy Nagar,Tiruvottiyur, Washermanpet, Mannadi, High Court, Chennai Central, Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, LIC, Thousand Lights, Gemini, Teynampet, and Saidapet and thus a longer stretch is to run underground. The tunneling would start soon and the tunnel boring machines could be seen at places. 

It had its toll already as the  skeletal structure of Ambassador Lodge — adjoining the heritage building of P. Orr & Sons on Anna Salai — came crashing last week before it was touched for demolition.  Already the occupants had drilled the walls to salvage their expensive fittings.  The debris that spilled out of the caving in did damage a few cars; fortunately none were injured.  The owners of the lodge had handed over the building to Chennai Metro Rail on March 9, but they were permitted to remove doors and other antique materials on “humanitarian grounds as the owners were attached to their property,”  - many buildings have already been safely demolished by CMRL.  The accidental collapse of the structure also had an impact on P. Orr & Sons. 


Many buildings are maintained (in fact the otherway not maintained) in such a condition but people cry hoarse when some project gets underway

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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