Heritage lovers plead case for restoration of Margao's historical landmark

Borda: Imagine Margao! An exquisite building with great architectural value, steeped in history and standing modestly tall in the heart of the city's teeming heritage precincts arrayed with almost 80 other edifices of old vintage.

It is the historic Camara Municipal de Salsette building of the 18th century, bearing the striking features of the once vibrant Indo-Portuguese architecture, now converted into an art and heritage centre.

In reality, it is slowly falling down brick-by-brick.

If Panaji, the capital city with its heritage outlook can have a master plan, a few wistful Margao residents are willing to accept by default, for the moment, a focus on one building, which touches their emotional chord. "Panaji is already beautiful with many civic and cultural buildings. But if at least the Camara building in Margao is restored, we could have an institution or a splendid art and heritage," says Jose Lourenco, a civil engineer and heritage lover.

The idea can become a reality if the building owner restores the crumbling structure, or the government takes over the property, working out some collaborative arrangement with the owner.

"With due consideration to what the owners want, they can configure some new use to offer space for the public in it with some returns for all the stakeholders. There can be some brainstorming on this," says Lourenco.

But adaptive reuse is inevitable to ensure its maintenance, while it will continue to stand, after its restoration, as the city's historical landmark. "This building symbolizes the revolution of September 21, 1890, which was triggered off after protests from members and supporters of one party at the attempt of the Portuguese establishment to rig the elections in the rival party's favour," says Francisco Colaco, a social activist.

The building's foundations are still strong for reconstruction on its present facade. Dean D'Cruz, an architect, says, "Something more modern can be built in sync with the area's heritage character by keeping the same facade."

The restoration of Ana Fonte spring lit up the city a few years ago. "Margao citizens came out enthusiastically to celebrate the restored public spaces," says Lourenco.

The city has only two large spaces-the municipal garden and Ana Fonte spring area. "Experiencing a cultural event in a modern building like Kala Academy in Panaji or Ravindra Bhavan in Margao is quite different from experiencing it in a heritage ambience, such as Maquinez palace and Monte Chapel at Old Goa," adds Lourenco.

The old Camara municipal building could be the city's cultural hub. Demolition of some of the heritage structures for high- rise concrete blocks is already shrinking the city's heritage landscape. "There are at least 30 buildings around the church square and nearly 80 overall in the heritage precincts spread out along Abade Faria road, Comba, Borda and Pajifond while others have disappeared," says Lourenco.

"The old Camara building should be restored to its original grandeur as much as possible in the interest of preserving the city's heritage," says Antonio Piedade Moraes, a heritage lover.

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