Bengaluru: Then and Now

Contrast between the Old and New Bengaluru

In celebration of World Heritage Day, an architectural walk was conducted by INTACH through the Fraser Town, Cooke Town and Richards Town areas.

A group of 10-15 people of different professions and of various walks of life had come together to walk across the Fraser Town area into Richards Town with one common purpose in their hearts – a fondness for architecture. The places visited were Ismail Sait Mosque, Mizpah Telugu Church, Mr Sashidhar’s bungalow on Cookson Road, the building in which presently, French Loaf is located, Bungalow No. 8 on Hall Road etc. Bungalow No. 8 is a Heritage Victorian era colonial bungalow that is rented out for events such as weddings, parties etc.

The walk on Architecture for Non-Architects was led by the Bangalore-based architect Vijay Narnapatti on the 22nd of April. This walk was conducted by INTACH – Indian National Trust for Art and Culture Heritage in celebration of World Heritage Day celebrated on the 18th of April.

My alma mater, Clarence High School, located in this vicinity, was also one of the locations visited. Tides of nostalgia, pride and a vague feeling of being connected to history, in some small way washed over me. I have known of the rich history of that area since my school days. I had walked by these very same structures every day for 12 years and I felt such irrational happiness at the fact that other people were here to appreciate and appraise these very same buildings that made up a huge part of my childhood. I discovered new titbits of history through this walk and fell in love with those towns even more.

The walk covered a distance of 2.5km and began at 4:30 pm at the Bangalore East Railway Station ending at Richards Park. The three towns in focus were Frazer Town, Cooke Town and Richards Town. The concept behind the architecture walk, according to Narnapatti was, “to understand how and in what way this place was set up and how it grew.” To understand the kind of architecture of the times, how it has changed, and how new materials have influenced the architecture of this area were the key objectives.

The Bangalore East Railway Station was chosen as the starting point because, as Mr Narnapatti put it, “railway stations are about journeys and this place has come far from the time it was initiated a hundred years ago.”

The main focus of the walk was on the bungalows that represent India’s colonial past. These towns contain 215 British bungalows that have been preserved and are the last remnants of Bengaluru’s past. Mr Narnapatti discussed the various nuances of the typical British architecture of the 1900’s. The confluence of British architecture with Indian craftsmanship showed the intertwining of the two styles of architecture. Verandas, monkey-tops, trellises etc. were the typical characteristics of these bungalows.

The walk ended with an exhibition held at Richards Park by INTACH where recipes, photographs and posters were being displayed and a visit to aPaulogy, Paul Fernandes’ Gallery of Curious Memories, inspired by Bangalore in the ’70’s.

Alexander Thomas and Joan Cherian