!9th Century CE Old French Court, Puducherry - now sporting a new look!

19 C old French court bldg. Puducherry/thehindu.com

Above image: Old Court building , Puducherry, S. India: A view of the renovated heritage structure on the Beach promenade in Puducherry. The restoration of the 149-year-old building was completed  in August 2019, awaiting inauguration later.........

19th C Old French court bldg, Puducherry..indiatimes.com

Under renovation, old French court bldg. Puducherry

Under renovation, old court bldg. Puducherry.thehindu.com

Above images: The Old Court Building, Puducherry now 152 year old was being renovated in November 2018 and the work was expected to be completed by the middle of 2019.  The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) , specialist in old conservation building work was the consultant for the PWD a and the cost of restoration was around Rs.5crore. They completed the work using old techniques..... 

Puducherry (union territory) was one among a few  French colonies in India for more than two centuries and became independent in 1954. This settlement being an important one in India, Puducherry served as the administrative headquarters for the French administration. Hence here there are countless French styled majestic buildings with elements of native Indian style prevalent in this part of Tamil region.  There is no dearth of attractions in this city that still retains the old architecture from the French colony  delicately mingled with vernacular architecture imparting a unique look to the cityscape. This place is a confluence of different cultures and a social, cultural and spiritual melting pot.  Till 2008 the court, was functioning in this landmark building, a legacy of French colonial rule in this part of south India.

The old building needed repair and renovation because of age factor and change of climatic conidiation. Apart, the structure is close to the sea and humid air is yet another factor that may affect the exterior walls. Foundation was laid for the restoration work in 2015 by the then CM Sri Rangasamy. The proposal includes new facilities like  a law museum, a library and conference-cum-research hall.

The court building  built in 1870 is Grade II A heritage structure and is one of the impressive and imposing structures in Puducherry that adorn the city scape. The old lighthouse, Customs House and French consulate on Goubert Avenue, the Town Hall are some of the buildings worth mentioning.  

Constructed  on the site of Hotel De La Marine in 1766, this two-story masonry structure with lime mortar is designed to bear adequate load. Madras-terraced ceiling,  initially it served as a Court of Appeal and a law school.  Later it became  the Hôtel du commandant du génie in 1788, and the Cour d’appel from 1884 to 1955. After joining the Indian Union,  it functioned as a court till 2008.

 With impressive façade the  original building featured an arcaded ground floor and colonnaded first floor. Any person walking on the beach road will never fail to take a second look at the building. Later, it was altered considerably and the original finish (white  and terracotta red flooring) was removed and most of the columns and arches were rebuilt with bricks. The high windows needed protection against sunshine and rain so they were provided with concrete sunshade, according to INTACH expert. Demolition of a small portion of the first floor and veranda on the west side became inevitable as they became structurally weak. These were rebuilt to have same look using old traditional  martials and techniques.  As part of restoration, for Madras terrace roofing work to maintain the heritage elements and values, INTACH sourced  traditional materials and method  using lime-mortar-brick.

old image, French Court, Puducherry.districts.ecourts.gov.in

The ground floor will have a museum and library and on the first floor, it will include three spacious well-designed suites along with dinning area and kitchen facility. Yet another plus is wooden flooring. Th interior of this building, it is proposed, will include various artifacts of French era to highlight the French legacy. 

Full credit goes to INTACH for the restoration work done with traditional methods. Further, they have popularized the concept of ''conservation and reuse'' of old damaged  heritage buildings.