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Keeping Memories Alive

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Royal Calcutta Turf Club (RCTC) established in 1847 in Calcutta, British India (now Kolkata, India) to promote and foster the sport of horseracing in the sub-continent is currently one of the largest race venues in India. The Club wanted to renovate and restore part of the ‘Reserve Stand’ within the club as well as modernize the club activities. Architectonic Services set up in 2006 in Kolkata, by a young & dynamic team of architects went about turning aspirations into reality. Aditya Goswami, Partner & Principal Architect of the design firm briefs.

RCTC has an unrivalled portfolio of colonial buildings, most of which were constructed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries including the five galleries-Grand Stand, Reserve Stand, Members Stand, Eastern Stand and Monsoon Stand. Completed in 1921, the Reserve Stand was a building with typical Edwardian classical features suitably adapted in the Indian context, having galleries at different levels-looking towards the race course and rooms for Members to indulge in their club activities.

The client brief was to revitalize the Reserve Stand keeping the original building fabric and using the building’s heritage to guide its regeneration as a contemporary asset. Other task included planning the interior environment to accommodate different modern day club activities thereby increasing the footfalls of the Reserve Stand and the Club.

Rendering of the façade

As very typical of the Edwardian era, the Reserve Stand had rather unassuming and humble facade features; it had a simple and balanced facade, with straight roofline, uncomplicated ornament and relatively maintenance free detailing. Significant noticeable features were:

• Banded windows

• Oversized keystone over fenestrations

• Both the flat arch and true arch for doors/openings

• Ornamental cast Iron grill patterns for railings

Each of these prominent features comprised influential considerations for not only the facade conservation but also the generation of the interior design vocabulary. The existing building was read more like a guidebook, containing much of the information necessary to provide the impetus for the retrofit and reuse work. This reading presented clues and pointers, which paved the route map for a focused investigation and the subsequent designing of the interior spaces, as well as the facade conservation.

Interior Elements

Flooring: Much like in Edwardian times, chequered patterned Italian Marble flooring was done in the grand areas like the grand rooms and the lobbies and passages in all floors. Repetitive patterns were used to accentuate the sense of space. Persian Carpet was also used on the banquet room floor.

Ceiling: During the colonial period, ornamental cornices were no longer regarded as essential and ceiling designs were simpler and plain along the lines of vernacular revival. Keeping this simplicity in mind, the ceiling was designed to be predominantly rectilinear with the colour kept as white to enhance the sense of space. In certain areas, where different services had to be concealed in the ceiling, parts of the same were delineated in such a manner that it seemed a continuation of the wall paneling.

Fire Place: Elaborate fire places formed the cynosure of all activities in the living areas during the Edwardian era. As the fireplace was functionally redundant today, it could still serve the purpose of being the focal point of the wall paneling and displaying paintings and trophies all around it. It was designed as a combination of wooden paneling and stonework. The wooden paneling in the form of decorative mouldings, was designed as a continuation of the wall paneling and the over mantel was made of Marble.

Built in furniture: Built in furniture was especially popular for its economical use of space and it made the rooms look bigger. Hence all cabinets were placed along the walls with glazed shutters which enabled transparency. Also, several of the original old antique furniture were reused to retain the Edwardian aura.

Metalwork: The cast iron production saw its golden days during the Edwardian period. The tight formality of the Victorian cast iron gave way to freer designs influenced by the French Louis XV and XVI styles and by Art Nouveau. At the same time, many ironwork designs reflected the revival of interest in the Georgian era. These changes led to a great interest in cast iron patterns and hence a profusion of the same in various parts of the building. As the metal works along the lift facades were undamaged, they were retained as a prominent feature in each lobby. The brackets to support the roof of the Gallery of the first floor too were made of cast iron-reminiscent of the Edwardian era.

Walls: Edwardian walls often displayed an extraordinary mixture of historical styles. With oak or walnut wall paneling on one hand, wallpapers too were widely used. An overall light or feminine colour palette was used in walls which greatly enhanced the sense of space. These ideas were replicated in all the walls.

Doors & Windows: Less formal than its Victorian predecessor, the Edwardian front door reflected the strong influence of the Queen Anne Revival or Art Nouveau styles. Glazing was used in profusion in doors and windows to allow light to penetrate into the rooms, with some of the glazing being of stained glass having various types of patterns. Keeping the same in mind, glazed panels in doors, rectangular beveled clear glass panes with door frame and door stiles made of polished wood with ornate metal fittings were envisaged. Elaborate architrave along the doors, made of marble, with ornamental mouldings and window shutter divided into
smaller panes, window frame and window stiles made of polished wood with ornate metal fittings were used.

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