SHAHJANABAD, symbolic heart of Metropolitan Delhi:
A city, with the colossal Red Fort and it’s 14 gates. The emperor Shahjahan built Shahjahanabad, the old city of Delhi in 1648 AD with the concepts of medieval city layout. This old city was an enclosed fortified city with rubble wall, bastions and gates at regular intervals. Fortified neighborhood with arterial lanes, built fabrics on both sides and neighborhoods and mohallas are the main features of Delhi. The buildings in the old city are distinct in spatial planning, architecture, decorative elements and climate responsive features.
The lane had all the suspended electrical, data and phone cables overhanging from the poles down to the street.The dilapidated elements, the fragile structure and open service connections were major constraints on the site. Multiple cracks on the columns as well as the walls and large patches of dampness made the heritage look like an ordinary run down building. Decorative plaster work was hidden under the multiple coats of lime wash.
HAVELIS OF CHANDINI CHOWK:
Built during late Mughal and colonial periods, the facades of havelis were magnificently carved in buff and red sandstone adorned with floral patterns, sculptures and fluted modulations. With a centrally placed courtyard surrounded by rooms the interiors followed courtyard planning. Beautiful jharokhas (windows), Chattris (umbrellas), small decorative balconies, fluted columns, well designed chabutras (platforms), traditional baithkas (drawing rooms) and marble floors are features of the Mughal Architectural styles.
The project was started with the first examination by Ar. Kapil Aggarwal and Rajya Sabha member Mr. Vijay Goel of a dilapidated structure that still bore the traces of its history in the architectural elements like brackets, balconies, jharokhas, multifold arches and carved sandstone facades which looked worn out due to insensible urban pressure and had been declared as an inhabitable space by the government. Without any plans or drawings, we had to develop a program even before starting the design which involved the building survey, to prepare measured drawings & structural repairing & strengthening of the building.
A PEEK INTO THE CONSERVATION:
The designing process involved an elaborate 2 year research of the entire urban fabric of Chandni Chowk. The resulting space had elements from Hindu, Mughal, Jain & Rajasthani Architecture.
The approach was to amalgamate traditional architecture with contemporary modern architecture to create an inviting space for both Indian & foreign visitors.
We visited almost all the old cities of India to understand the relevance of such a project & to collect a large number skilled labor that have an understanding of traditional haveli style of architecture and its elements. We replicated almost all the elements which were used earlier, some of them in a modern way.
Every room or space has its own theme which reflects various flavors of architecture & livelihood of Chandni Chowk. All furniture, lights & artifacts were custom designed for different spaces according to its use & the theme taken.
WALKING DOWN THE HAVELI:
The grand experience begins with entering the narrow lane “Gali Anar” of Chandni chowk from the Kinari Bazaar. The lane has been improvised by removing all the suspended electrical, data and phone cables and shifting them underground.
Walking down the embellished lane we reach the grand entry of the Haveli highlighted with a very intricate stone carving and cutting work. The pedestal has an engraved chariot and a few steps above are carvings of different patterns of flowers and vines typical of Havelis in India. The front façade has 2 major colors which are light brown Dholpur stone and red paint. On both the sides of the main entry are 4 other repaired wooden doors with M.S. strips in the form of an arch. These doors are held by cylindrical cement hinges at four corners. Above the main entry, a linear balcony is created covering the whole front façade which is supported by re-constructed columns, railings and roof. The balcony opens up to the narrow lane and provides a full view of all activities of Gali Anar and is supported by the fibre reinforced brackets which were replicated and repaired, resembling the existing brackets. Above this balcony, lies another balcony which is about 5m in length and has a very intricate railing design.
Ar. Kapil Aggarwal and Mr. Vijay Goel had a vision to conserve and protect the architectural heritage gifted by our fore-fathers hence an attempt was made to keep its aesthetic value intact and restore it without muddling with the fundamental structure from the Mughal Era. The original huge 135 year old wooden door with carvings and M.S. strips were refurbished and placed as the entry door to the Haveli. The ceiling is done with interesting patterns of madhubani art .The entry to the main Haveli has a silver cladded door, in line with the lift lobby.
The open courtyard has an octagonal flooring pattern with a water fountain at its center, which is replicated form of courtyard planning typical to any haveli.
The existing Haveli had a Ground +2 structure where the 2nd floor was inhabitable with broken floor slabs and access to the floor. We had to retrofit various spaces like restaurants, a museum, shops and different types of rooms in the renovated and structurally improved Ground +1 structure and construct the 2nd and 3rd floors and a terrace area. To achieve this- a rigorous overhaul process was performed. The main structure was strengthened by epoxy grouting, FRP wrap addition and columns at places required. All the slabs were repaired and micro-concreting was done at places. All architectural elements were replicated in the same scale and finish but the materials were changed to make it better and cost efficient. These elements were all reconstructed with the help from very skilled labor hand-picked from several of India.
The idea was to stagger all these functions around the courtyard, providing good visual connectivity, improving the light and air quality throughout the Haveli. On the ground floor the courtyard extends into the restaurant area through the wide glass panels which replaced the existing doors under arches. The upper floors are placed with a setback from the floor below it. This helps more in the visual connectivity.
LAKHORI, THE TRADITIONAL ACCENT OF THE RESTURANT:
The concept for the restaurant was to give it an antique look with lakhori brick work and retaining the existing arched vaults. The area was previously being used as living room + store. The restaurant on one side opens up to the courtyard with the view of full height of haveli and the other side has green painted doors which separate the family dining spaces from the common restaurant.
The restaurant holds the capacity of 50 persons and the furniture the is finished in dark polished wood which adds on to the natural look of the lakhori bricks.
The ceiling has been painted with rough textured stucco. In terms of innovation, we have also designed a decorative chandelier for the restaurant area. Laser cut M.S boxes of 1.15m x 0.5m were fabricated in dark antique copper finish with provision for light bulbs at the center hung from the ceiling through tension wires. Amalgamation of the different shapes, elements and materials which were used in the past in such Havelis, with the concept of the refurbished space resulted in such a design.
The rear end of the restaurant is the kitchen with a dumb waiter for the terrace place above. The storage for the kitchen is taken to the basement through a narrow staircase which was previously used as cellar.
AN ENVELOPE AROUND THE COURTYARD, A TRADITIONAL PERTINENCY:
The first floor has 6 rooms and a spa.The rooms have specifically designed furniture, walls, ceiling, washrooms, lighting and view of the courtyard. Also the sizes of the rooms also vary, so the retro-fitting of similar “unit” designs was not possible
All the rooms open up to the courtyard with immense inflow of natural light, airflow and visual connectivity. Above the reception area on the ground floor, private suites (2 suites per floor) have been placed in the first and the second floor with a small covered courtyard.
This space of the Haveli is called the “Choti Haveli” which translates to small Haveli, because it in itself has all the features and architectural ambience of an entire Haveli. These suites are large rooms with a living area, bedroom and a lavish toilet. The living area and the bedroom are separated by existing Rajasthan style architectural arches and columns. These rooms have windows opening into the narrow lanes of Gali Anar infusing the life of old city into the haveli.
The railings of the corridor on all floors are “modern clones” of the existing haveli heritage. The balustrades are made of painted GI members and the handrail is wooden. A play of light and shadow continues throughout the day on the white stone floors through the railings.
Above the restaurant is another suite and a huge terrace area in the front facing the courtyard. The terrace area has the back drop of arches and glass panels. These arches are replicated on the floor by laser cutting black mosaic stone in the shape of arches and placing in its front creating the effect of shadows of these arches. This terrace is the most visually connected space in the Haveli and hence it can be used as a space for dance/music performances.The second floor has 7 rooms which include 3 suites.The corners of every floor has small pockets of spaces which are used as open sheeshah rooms with a lounge setup of furniture.
TERRACE, A VISUAL DELIGHT:
The third floor cum terrace area is the major highlight feature of the Haveli. The terrace holds a view of the majestic Red fort, Jama Masjid and other landmark locations like Sis Ganj Gurudwara and Shankaracharya/Jain mandir. The terrace becomes the vantage point where we can have the view of whole Chandni Chowk area bringing its life and essence into the Haveli.
A huge jharoka has been hanged from the walls of the third floor which covers a corridor behind and is white painted. The railings of the jharoka are laser cut stone patterns. This is an amalgamation of Rajasthan’s architecture style and Jain’s Architecture style into the space.
The terrace also holds a part of the restaurant with the main attraction being the sitting below the “Barah Dhari” which is a structure made of wooden cladded M.S. columns and beams and a glass pergola. The wall behind the Barah Dhari is treated as a water wall and highlighted with fountains to lend an exquisite dining experience. The flooring is created with zigzag patterns of black and white stones bring more essence to the space. The mumty of the staircases are not left untreated. They are again highlighted with different colored stained glass, jaalis, and stone carving of traditional elements. The wall of lift machine room has been treated with mural inlay inspired from Mughal style of floral patterns in stone. It is also decorated by wooden windows and traditional brackets.
A THOUGHTFUL REVAMP:
All elements and architecture in the Haveli have been designed after careful study and caution to bring back its life in the best way possible and help gain its own respect as it was supposed or used to have in timeline when it was constructed.
We get elevated by the daily activities of the people of Chandni Chowk, there are people flying kites throughout the day, there are pigeons performing tricks on the mark of their trainers. The Haveli holds the privilege of being the first of its kind to show the life of old Delhi like never before. With such breathtaking panoramic views, the Haveli becomes one of the best traditional get-away in or around Delhi.