In the midst of putting the final touches to the Central Hall of Mumbai’s Town Hall and Asiatic Library—the city’s oldest public building—architect Abha Narain Lambah has been selected to prepare the conservation plan and advise the Chandigarh administration on the restoration of Le Corbusier’s Capitol Complex, a UNESCO world heritage site in Chandigarh. Forty-six-year-old Lambah, who has emerged as one of India’s leading restoration architects, spent several years in Chandigarh as a young girl attending school at Carmel Convent. The city continues to have special meaning for her, even though she’s now a Mumbai resident. But it’s the project itself that truly excites her. When India was at the cusp of modernisation, iconic Swiss-French architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier, gave shape to then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s dream for the city of Chandigarh. “When you talk of modernism as an international movement, Le Corbusier… is one of the absolute greats,” Lambah says. Since she first set up her practice, 22 years ago, her biggest challenge has been to get policy makers to protect living buildings and not just dead sites. “A bulk of my work in Mumbai has been to make the city’s art deco and Victorian buildings acceptable as heritage,” says Lambah. Last October she completed an eight-year project to restore Mumbai’s Royal Opera House, which was constructed in the Baroque style in the first decade of the 20th century. Later this month, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis will unveil her restoration of the Central Hall at the Asiatic Library. In its heyday, the space hosted all the civic functions of the city (as well as Bombay University), and even served as a courtroom. When it reopens—decorated with chandeliers and wooden bookcases with lion heads to match the originals—it will again serve as a town hall and public library.
MAHARASHTRA CHIEF MINISTER DEVENDRA FADNAVIS WILL UNVEIL LAMBAH’S RESTORATION OF THE CENTRAL HALL AT THE ASIATIC LIBRARY