Wednesday, 27 March 2019

The Fort High School, Bangalore - first school in the former princely state of Mysore

old fort high school, Bangalore. ombay Jayashri
crumbling Fort High School, Bangalore, karnataka. Deccan Herald
India has countless monuments of historical,  cultural, religious and  architectural values  and with respect to  world heritage sites recognized by the UNESCO, it is in  the 5th position, the first two positions being taken by Italy followed by China.  Still there are innumerable monuments that, unfortunately, remain unrecognized by UNESCO, part of the reason being poor presentation of details by the government and lack of upkeep. There are amazing Hindu temples like Madurai Meenaskshi Amman kovil and Tirunelveli Nellaiappar temple that are not only being well-maintained but are also the repository of amazing  stone sculptures of exceptional beauty and huge ornate halls (mandapams) supported by  massive decorative stone pillars. These two temples are centuries old.That they are yet to get world wide attention for their heritage value is a sad story.
Old Fort High School, Bangalore. The Hindu Images
Besides hoary monuments, India has a vast number of buildings that may be colonial, Islamic and  Indo-European style of design. Besides, there are numerous iconic buildings of striking beauty that have defied the laws of nature and time.  It is good to read in the news paper that steps are being taken to restore an iconic building that came up during the erstwhile Princely state of Mysore. The Fort High School building that stands on a three-acre plot close to Tipu Sultan's Bangalore palace (in the old Pettah area) was the first school in the former princely state. This historical edifice occupies a unique place in the history of Bangalore and, unfortunately, it has fallen into disuse because the school offered courses in local language and, over a period of time, the parents wanted their children to move over to English Medium schools. This first “Anglo-vernacular” school offered as many as eight languages when it started – Telugu, Tamil, Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Hindi, English and Kannada, according to a media report. Initially, the school had a strength of roughly 2000 students.

The building comprises roughly 15000 sq. feet of built up area  with all rooms roofed with either Jack Arches or Madras terrace material. The amazing thing is the foundation of this old school building  is very strong even to day.  The ruler of Mysore spent
Old Fort High School, Bangalore. Mysuru Today
lots of money on the building with a spacious front to impart education to the local children in a quiet ambiance. The structure came up in two phases, first began in 1907. The second phase began  20 years later and the  new U shaped structure had an addition of 14 rooms.  It is a blend of both colonial and local styles as revealed by  the ornamental Roman arches and the projecting bays  that remind us of elements of colonial style. Whereas, the  central courtyard and the sloping roof with Mangalore tiles represent the local design common even day in that region. Like numerous colonial buildings in India, this structure is made of lime, brick and mortar. The verandahs in this one-story structure contain lots of columns, the ones on the ground floor are made of stone and, on the other hand, the columns on the first floor are made of wood. This is, it seems, done deliberately with a view to reducing the overlying load. An important feature worthy of mention is the use of Polonceau truss first developed by the French engineer Camille Poloneau (1813-1859) combining timber and iron. It offered structural stability as well as aesthetics. In this  Fort High school building, the tiled roof rising conically above the central hall imparts  an impressive crown that adds extra attraction to this old structure.  In this case, the trusses were imported from England. The walls in the building   were well planned to be load-bearing and teak wood frames were used to support the walls in the upper floor. Teak wood  frames and rafters were  extensively used in the building.

Old fort High chool, Bangalore. restoration work is on. www.deccanherald.com

The credit goes to INTACT - Indian National trust for Architectural heritage for carrying out the restoration work that was funded by a private firm. The total cost was around Rs. 2.4 crore and, it is believed, the  project will be completed by the beginning of 2020.  
The building was damaged due to  unchecked overgrowth of weeds, etc and in some places  the traversing roots that extend into the building caused cracks. These cracks had to be filled in with due attention. The wooden frames, etc  and tiles, despite the time factor, are  more or less in good shape. The wood was damaged in some places due to seepage of rain water. though damaged it still retained a semblance of its old regal look. Restoration such an old building constructed in a different era is a challenging one and INTACT's approach to retain it past glory is on the right track. 

 https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/Fort-High-School-a-shadow-of-its-glorious-past/article14240731.ece
 https://www.deccanherald.com/city/historic-fort-high-school-set-687023.html
The Hindu dtd.10 March 2019: Restoring an iconic edifice