By Anuradha K. R.
Photography: Courtesy Saif Habibullah
One can’t delve into restoration unless there’s an irresistible inner calling for preserving a slice of history. Mr. Wajahat Habibullah’s century-old family-home, ‘Habibullah Estate’ in Lucknow has been recently restored by son Amar and his wife, Jyotsna Habibullah.
There were challenges galore, associated with this endeavour. That the small bricks used in construction were laid with mud rather than lime mortar had rendered the structure fragile. Sheesham and Burma Teak beams, supporting the tiled roof of the house had weakened due to insect-infestation, leading to monsoon tantrums. These beams, in turn, were drawing their support from steel railway sleepers, set 4ft apart. Despite regular preventive maintenance, a portion of the roof had collapsed, necessitating temporary tin roofing, thus making certain portions of the house uninhabitable.
|Restored areas now hosting hi-end fashion boutiques|
|Conserved walls and ceiling Aesthetic & sensitive contemporary additions|
|Old flooring detail Old garden fountain detail|
Considering the vulnerability of the structure, the restorers opted to replace the original roof with RCC slab. Custom-made, corrugated, permanent steel shuttering was preferred over standard shuttering, as it reduced the thickness of the slab by 2”, thereby reducing the load on the walls. To take the load off the walls, tie-beams have been made all along the walls, integrating the retained steel sleepers with them. Arches and other brick structures, wherever present, that were adequately supporting the walls, have been retained as such.
The building had its walls, finished with mud-phaska and painted with lime. It was coming apart in certain pockets due to dampness. Because of lack of expertise in mud-phaska craftsmanship, the walls have now been plastered with cement, wherever required. While original doorframes, window-frames and wooden blinds have been retained, electrical lines and fixtures have been extensively modified/replaced.
Ably guided by LTDF Architecture & Interior Design, Ar. Rajiv Sethi, and designers, Kausar and Sarita Hukumchand, this heritage property, nestled amidst high-rises, introduces a refreshing visual relief to the landscape in the heart of the city, much as it brings to light what an uncompromised, passionate response to heritage can accomplish.
The restored Habibullah Estate is now home to Lucknow’s first luxury retail space, hosting distinguished Indian fashion design stores.