What is happening to…

Bungalows in Bangalore

Promenade Rd in Cleveland Town, between Coles park and Coles Rd

In 1804, the British post of the Mysore Residency was shifted to Bangalore. Two years later, they developed the areas now known as Shivajinagar, M.G.Road Fraser Town, Benson Town, Cleveland Town, Cox Town and Ulsoor into their Civil and Military Station; ‘the Cantonment’. Later, other areas like Richmond Town, Langford Town and other parts of the central eastern parts of the city were included.

Due to the debate on the architectural style and if it should follow the European or indigenous model, the final result ended up as a fusion of both. Though the public buildings had more elements of the European style displaying the colonial power of Britain, the residential buildings were built within the local context and reacted to the climatic conditions adapting to the bungalow scheme.

Especially in Bangalore the bungalows were used to establish a social boundary between the Indians and the British and hence the features of the bungalow and the garden would not only adapt to the climatic conditions but would also act as a psychological boundary. The setback from the road, the compound wall, the size of the garden and the land in itself, were all symbols of their inhabitant’s hierarchical status.

This also lead to a distinction between the British officials, the bungalow itself became a symbol for hierarchy and superiority within the ranks.

Today, these beautiful green spaces contribute towards the city’s green appearance. What is saddening though is that as most of these colonial bungalows remain unoccupied today with no one other than a lone watchman to guard, there is no one to maintain these spaces and houses. Moreover, even if there is someone to maintain them, it is quite expensive to conserve them due to the cost of materials involved.

It has to become the city’s responsibility to care for these and allow for innovative solutions from the outside or soon we will have green pockets with decaying houses and trash as the main landscape feature. It is understood that we cannot let the big developers of the city take over these plots and develop them into another ‘advertisement-clad’ shopping complex or a high density residential complex. The city rather needs to find a sensitive solution for these buildings and their conservation.

A good example to learn from would be the Hatworks Boulevard on Cunningham Road. It has been fully restored and has become a heritage hotel with a small store; a place for leisure. It is a self-sustaining way of adapting these places to the modern life of the city while preserving their character and heritage.

The preservation is inevitable, if we want to create a city with diversity and history from within. The public still perceives these bungalows as a symbol of wealth and social distinction and accepts them as part of the city’s history. 

So then why are we turning our backs to it, isn’t this our city?


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