The former Viceregal Lodge, constructed in 1888 as a residence for British Viceroys, now serves as home to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS). According to historical documents, architects had to contend with unstable rocks and terrain even back then.
The recent landslides in the area, which devastated the front and rear portions of the complex, have prompted the Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS), Shimla, to issue an alert. Since Sunday, heavy rains have pounded Himachal Pradesh, causing landslides in various locations, including three in Shimla, and at least 77 fatalities.
The historic Viceregal Lodge, built in 1888 as a residence for the British Viceroys to India, now serves as home of the IIAS. According to historical documents, architects and building engineers had to deal with unstable rocks and terrain even then.
When was Viceregal Lodge constructed?
Shimla’s new Viceregal Lodge was built starting in October 1885, and both the estate and the building were occupied in July 1888. However, only minor repairs were made to the house and the surrounding area up until September 30 of that year, and the job was finished in just three years.
The Viceregal Lodge is located on Observatory Hill in Shimla, and in order for the lodge to be built there, the hill’s summit had to be leveled. According to records in the national archives, Lord Dufferin was the Viceroy of India when building started, and he and his family moved into the lodge in July 1888. The resort provides spectacular views of the rushing Sutlej River on one side and the snow-covered mountains on the other.
When the project was finished, the real cost was Rs. 13.12 lakh, which was higher than the sum initially approved for the total project of Rs. 12.19 lakh.
The Viceregal Lodge once stood on how stable of a foundation?
Retaining walls on several of the property’s roads started to crumble soon after September 1888, when building on the new lodge was completed. In a report issued to the Secretary of State for India in September 1888, the Public Works Department of the Government of India notes that “during the present rainy season several of the old retaining walls on some roadways on the Observatory Hill had crumbled. The walls need to be rebuilt since the earth behind them has shifted. Before winter, this work cannot be finished. Because the expenditure does not, in our opinion, fairly be charged against the estimate for the Viceregal Lodge and because the roads are not brand-new, they would have needed to be maintained in any case, we propose to sanction the estimates in the ordinary course.
What challenges did the lodge’s hilltop location present?
The Viceregal Lodge’s foundations had to be built with considerable care, according to the records, as they were quite uneven and the site was on the very edge of a plateau with clay to the west and a precipice to the north. The top of the hill had been flattened to create a plateau, and the remaining portion was on rock.
According to the archives, the rock that was discovered here was fissured, broken, and crushed shale. The maximum weight permitted in any circumstance was 2 tons per foot; almost everywhere, the weights do not exceed 11 tons. “Concrete with a very great spread and in considerable thickness was utilized to build the footings of the foundations and on which to form the superstructure. These significant allowances probably contribute to the lack of foundation settlement, according to the documents.
Where did the building materials come from?
The majority of the materials came from regional suppliers. According to the documents, the cut stone came from Kalka, 50 miles away at the base of the hills, and was hauled on mules. The walling stone was quarried within five miles of the location. In the vicinity of Shimla, at Kasumpti and Jutogh, lime was burned, and Jutogh produced bricks and tiles.
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The majority of the wood used for construction came from woods in the nearby hills and was made up of deodar, kail, walnut, and oak. Six or seven years before to the start of the work, the Burmese teak wood used in the woodwork, major stairway, and floors of the State rooms was purchased. The ironwork, including the girders, beams, and trusses, came from Bombay.
Indians were they involved in the project’s management?
Even though all of the officers in charge of overseeing the construction were British, documents indicate that a number of “native mistries” and sub-overseers were also engaged. For every task, they received thorough drawings, and frequently, models were created as well.
All types of labor, including stone cutters and carpenters, were employed locally as well, and higher pay had to be provided in order to keep them from leaving during the winter.