The Darbar Hall in Raj Bhavan, the Maharashtra Governor’s official residence at Malabar Hill, will be completely razed and rebuilt as it has suffered damage from corrosion in the 100 years since it was built. Also known as Jal Sabhagriha, the Darbar Hall is the venue of momentous occasions like swearing-in ceremonies. However, the sea-facing building has corroded so much that it will have to be pulled down completely. However, it will be reconstructed to its original design and the new building will retain the historical features of the old one, said conservation architect Abha Narian Lambah, to whom the government has given the reconstruction task.
“The Public Works Department carried out an audit of the building. Since it is facing the sea, it has incurred great damage over the years and needs to be reconstructed completely,” said Lambah. “The idea is to reconstruct it to its original design and retain the historically relevant features of the building. The chandeliers in the hall will be placed back once the work is completed,” she added.
The main focus in terms of design will also be to ensure it is a green building. For finalising the design for the hall, a design competition was held and a committee presided over the competition for finalising the design.
The coffee table book on the structure, ‘Raj Bhavans of Maharashtra, Witness of Glory’, says, “Jal Sabhagriha, commonly known as Darbar Hall was built to host functions and events of a more official nature. While Jal Vihar was used for entertainment and amusement purposes, Jal Sabhagriha was built to conduct swearing-in ceremonies and to host other official events and cultural programmes.”
The audience hall was designed by George Wittet and built in 1911, the book says, adding that it can host 250 guests comfortably.
In the assignment given to Lambah, the state government has asked him to increase the hall’s capacity to accommodate people. “We have been told to ensure the hall can accommodate more people as much larger in-house space is required for functions held here now,” said Lambah.
According to an official in the Raj Bhavan, the reconstruction of the hall is in the planning stage at the moment. Besides the hall, the secretariat building will also be torn down and a new structure will be constructed in its place. The official added that alternative accommodation was being finalised for the secretarial staff of the Raj Bhavan.
Presently, the design requirements are being worked out, said Lambah, adding that the work is expected to start in six months after all permissions are in place. Completing the work will take another year. “A lot of things will have to be kept in mind during the construction since this is a VIP area and tight security will be in place. Other considerations will be to ensure minimal disturbance owing to sound and dust during construction activity,” said Lambah. The work is expected to take place in a phased manner.