Semi-circular arches, narrow cast-iron spiral staircases and wooden floors and staircases: the iconic 89-year-old Asiatic Building on Kempegowda Road is a blend of a Mysurean, Gothic and Tudor architecture, and is one of the few buildings across the State designed by German botanist, architect, and town planner G.H. Krumbiegel. Like many of Bengaluru’s heritage structures, the building, popularly referred to as Janata Bazaar, is under threat of demolition. In March, the High Court of Karnataka directed the State not to demolish it until further orders.
On Tuesday morning, the German Consulate, Bengaluru, organised an informal tour of the building along with Yaduveer Krishnadatta Chamaraja Wadiyar of the erstwhile Mysore royal family and Alyia Phelps-Gardiner Krumbiegel, the great granddaughter of G.H. Krumbiegel.
Mr. Yaduveer urged the government to put in place a strong heritage policy to protect, restore and maintain Bengaluru’s and Karnataka’s history. He suggested a holistic approach, one that will preserve the identity of the Mysore state. “The Asiatic Building carries the narrative of Bengaluru. It was built during the golden age of (the then) Mysore state and was witness to its development and transformation. Hence, it showcases the grandeur of Mysuru and the glory of Bengaluru in many ways. Preserving it is preserving our own identity,” he said.
Yashaswini Sharma, an architect who acted as guide on the tour, noted that the positioning and shape of the building gives a look into the history of the city as it faces the pete of old Bengaluru and is located in the transition zone between the colonial cantonment and the old pete. “It is an excellent example of the transformation of the civic architectural vocabulary of the Mysore kingdom. This is the kind of public architecture that was followed during the reign of Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wadiyar. We will lose all that history, a sense of belonging, and a bit of identity if we lose buildings like this,” she said.
Karl Philipp Ehlerding, Deputy Consul General of the German Federal Republic, Bengaluru, said they were open to ideas and initiatives to preserve buildings related to Germany and could perhaps offer help in technical and technological aspects of preservation. “I was amazed to see the fusion of Indian and German architecture in this building. Such buildings need to be preserved as they are part of the history of the city and its people,” he said.
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