The restoration was done by the acclaimed restoration specialist, Architect Samar Chandra from Canada over a period of 5 years. But it wasn’t an easy task! “Given the poor state of affairs in the region, the lack of skilled masons, artisans, plumbers and engineers located near the site posed a problem. And since the family was also keen to preserve the local eco-system, the project took a lot more time and painstaking efforts in acquiring resources. From restoring beams made of teak wood to working on the vintage furniture, the restoration of Bari Kothi involved a lot of attention to detail; enough to last another century or more”,
One of the most critical parts of the restoration was to strengthen the ground level. Because of decades of being locked up, moistures had seeped through the floor and made it extremely hospitable for rats and other animals.
A large part of the restoration exercise was to redo the flooring entirely with concrete and steel to ensure that the structure had a stable foundation and that the minima damp only could rise from the floor onto the walls.
The actual ground work of the restoration was carried out by very ordinary and unskilled labour from the local community and that became the ethos of the project. One of the other big challenges in the Project was the lack of proper and modern equipment which made the entire exercise very labourious. However, the end result was that more than 50 unskilled labourers became skilled labourers and now are trained enough to restore old structures.
The icing on the cake was that the Project made them also earn enough money to build their own pucca houses.
All the buildings during the 1700s and 1800s were built from limestone and calcium mix (chuna surkhi) with thin bricks (bangla eeth) using Burma teak wood for support. The moisture in the region caused the worst form of cancer in the building, damp. The damp became breeding grounds for termites. Most of the Burma Teak pillars were eaten away by the termites in its 250 year old existence at Bari Kothi. The chuna surkhi mix were reduced to powder courtesy the damp and the walls gradually started growing trees in between them.
Major structural support was built from the ground to the roof to hold on to what was remaining of the structures. In certain cases, new roofs were built and the consequent load transferred to the steel pillars inserted on the walls of the building. Very crafty and strategy planning was the secret of success!
Introducing steel and cement was the most capital intensive work and the biggest-decision-to-make in the Project. Steel was used to give support to the crumbling walls whereas cement glued the bricks together.
The end objective of the restoration was not to restore the building but to restore the sole of Bari Kothi. Hence, it was important to create a self-sustaining ecosystem for Bari Kothi, where Bari Kothi to sustain itself for another century. This vision gave birth to the first-ever Rustic Luxury Heritage Hotel of Murshidabad.
Restoring rooms was not only about restoring the 150 year old beds and furniture but to a large extent was to preserve and restore its story. The objective is to have every room dedicated to an erstwhile family member who lived in the house thereby making them live forever in the memories of the house. This thought gave birth to the concept of Room Stories.