Rajabai Clock Tower and Mumbai University Library building is an ongoing preservation and restoration project of a Grade I heritage building at Fort Precinct in South Mumbai. The project includes architectural, structural, services and interior works, including making a future maintenance proposal for this 136 year iconic building in Mumbai.
This Neo - Gothic building was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott. The construction of the building began in 1869. The Library building was completed in 1874 and the Clock Tower was completed in 1878. There are four different stones used in the construction of these buildings – Malad and Grey Green Basalt for the Masonry work, and Porbundar and Red Dharangdhara Stone for the architectural detailing. The Clock Tower with a height of 87m is an important feature of the building. The Library building has been designed with bilateral symmetry, and has features like verandahs or arcades, louvered windows, high vaulted ceilings were used. In addition to this, it has the stained glass windows, Minton tile flooring and highly carved projected balconies, stone carved capitals with heads of Shakespeare, Homer, kings & queens provided the building with a unique character. The arched ceiling in the reading area is handsomely wooden panelled and the massive rosewood doors and partitions on the entrance lobby reproduce some of the best carved examples.
All buildings are subjected to external forces which cause them to deteriorate over a period of time. At the initial stages, an intense documentation and condition mapping was carried out in all aspects for both buildings. Visual Defects included structural and non-structural cracks, stains and effloresce on stone facades, water seepage, broken and missing architectural elements and details, biological growth on the façade, damaged flooring and ceiling, damaged door and window panels, pealed plaster, exposed wiring, etc. were observed. For detail structural analysis of the buildings, non-destructive tests (NDT) were carried out to identify the level of deterioration of the structural members such as endoscopy investigation on the joints of the wooden truss members, Test for loss of section & extent of corrosion, chemical analysis and weldability test for steel sections, tensile & compressive strength of the structural wooden sections, electrosonic damp detection and moisture meter tests, petrography test for different stones and plumb test for the tower was also carried out. Being a Heritage building that functions as a University Library, a building assessment was also carried out for upgradation of the structure with respect to current standards and codes. A fire safety proposal was prepared where the buildings were analyzed to fit the current code of requirements.
External façade stone cleaning, Lime plastering, removal of thick layers of Paint from the internal Stone surface using water misting, mild pH balanced surfactants and gently cleaning of the surfaces with nylon brushes. Poulticing cleaning was carried out including plastic repair for Porbundar limestone details. Installation of Fire alarm system, Electrical re-conduiting and concealed wiring using fire retardant and low smoke type copper wiring as per current NBC norms was followed. Structural stitching of the stone cracks and replacement of stone was executed. Structural restoration of Library Roof was one of the key works of the restoration of the Library as due to inappropriate waterproofing, damaged joints and termite infestation had led to water ingress at the lower levels of the building. This included repair of wooden trusses, purlin members, wooden wall plates, providing adequate water tight protection by providing a new layer of aluminum sheet waterproofing, and lead (salvaged from the library roof) lining to the wall plates. The wooden vaulted ceiling was restored and re-polished. Minton tile restoration was also carried out where Minton tiles salvaged from other demolished old building were cut to required size and used to restore the heritage flooring.
One of the major challenges for this project was to carry out restoration and repair work for the Rajabai Clock Tower with the Clock functioning and working at a height of 85m or 280ft (approx. 29 floors) as the only internal access to the clock tower was a 600mm wide spiral stone staircase. Special workers and restorers were appointed to carry out this type of work at a height of 87m and intense safety measures were taken. All the damaged Burma Teak windows were repaired and replaced at all levels. A small wooden workshop was also built on the level six of the clock tower to repair and restore 6m high wooden louvers at that level. Other works such as stone façade cleaning by water misting, Porbundar stone details cleaning by poulticing, repair of wooden floor decks at each level, etc were carried out.
View of Rajabai Tower from the Oval Maidan, Fort, South Mumbai
The 280 ft tall Rajabai clock tower
Special workers and restorers were appointed to carry out repairs at a height of 85 m and intense safety measures were taken
The Library Façade
The Mumbai University Library, adjacent to the tower
Restored Arch and windows, the Library block
Arched Corridor, the Library Block
Completed in 1878, the Rajabai Clock Tower was designed by English architect Sir George Gilbert Scott