Bikaner House could very well be a visiting card for Rajasthan. Recent renovations have opened up parts of the building, with a new gallery and conference room, for the public. “The renovation was more about undoing what was already in that space rather than introducing new changes,” says Mumbai-based conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah.
While the three lawns have been landscaped, the changes are visible inside the central hall, where central government offices operated once. Decked up with new upholstery and a fresh coat of paint, it has been transformed into a conference hall.
The adjoining hall — once a dining area — has been converted into an art gallery. An exhibition on ‘Painting and Photography at the Jaipur Court’ predicts the look and feel the building once had.
“This is a neo-classical, early Art Deco building; this was among the four princely addresses. Today, the Hyderabad House has the official banquets, the Jaipur House hosts the National Gallery of Modern Art, the Patiala House has the district courts. But the Bikaner House was the only one which seemed to have become a default bus stop,” says Lambah.
“We want the Bikaner House to become a cultural address for Delhi. We hope to hold book launches and symposiums in the conference room. The stage outside, on the lawns, will be opened so that events on performing arts, contemporary and traditional dance, and music can be held here. We have also priced it right so that the exclusivity is not limited to the pricing but to the quality we bring to the events. The conference room can be rented out for Rs 10,000 for a day, while the art gallery will be Rs 5,000 for a day,” says Priya Pall, curatorial director, Bikaner House.
Besides lime-plastered paints and repairing the stone chajja around the building, the space hasn’t been structurally changed.
The CGHS building which stood behind the lawns in the complex is also heading towards a renovation; it is set to become a contemporary arts space. A fine dining restaurant, open during lunch and dinner hours, will allow visitors to relax, watch an exhibition or walk about the lawns.
It’s a welcome gesture to have such a central space opened up for the public. While the design detailing, be it in the paved flooring or the wall finishes, adds to the experience, Delhi can hope for a regal outing even without boarding that bus.