What Led to the Crumbling of the Iconic Krumbiegel Hall?

Poor maintenance and lack of expertise saw the end of Lalbagh’s Krumbiegel Hall in Bengaluru.

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“We campaigned long and hard for the Krumbiegel Hall to be restored. It was a very special place for me. I am sad that its gone,” said Alyia Phelps Gardiner, the great-granddaughter of Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel.

History came crumbling down at the Lalbagh Botanical Garden in Bengaluru as the 100-year-old Krumbiegel Hall was razed to the ground. The structure had been in a rickety condition for several years.

The Horticulture and Public Works Department (PWD) did not take up the restoration of the hall despite pressure from many architects and historians over the years. However, officials of these departments stated that the structure was beyond repair. “The building was being maintained by the PWD. With time, cracks developed and widened causing leakage. The building was in an irreparable state. There was no other option, but to demolish it.” M Jagadeesh, Joint director of Horticulture, Parks and Gardens told The Hindu.


When Accountability Takes a Backseat

Poor maintenance and lack of expertise saw the end of Lalbagh’s Krumbiegel Hall in Bengaluru.
The remains of the Krumbiegel Hall after it was razed to the ground.
(Photo: Roshni Balaji/The Quint)

The Horticulture and PWD department took a decision to demolish the Krumbiegal Hall despite promising to explore all options to rebuild it. “The department ordered the demolition of the structure merely based on a suggestion given by the technical team of an organisation called Civil Aid. There was no public consultation involved in the decision-making process,” said Naresh Narasimhan.

The Krumbiegal Hall was a part of the premises of Lalbagh, and hence, the responsibility for its maintenance was given to the Horticulture department. However, architects hold a different view in this regard.

Most of the heritage sites in the country fall under the Ministry of Culture as part of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Even this hall should have been handed over to the ASI to ensure transparency and accountability.
Mansoor Ali, Architect, INTACH.

The Poor State of Maintenance

Poor maintenance and lack of expertise saw the end of Lalbagh’s Krumbiegel Hall in Bengaluru.
The Krumbiegel Hall was in a dilapidated condition for the last few years.
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Ierene Francis)

Built in the 1860’s during the British era, the Krumbiegel Hall was a renowned cultural landmark in the city. The Horticulture and PWD department were entrusted with the safety and upkeep of the hall.

In 2011, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) had put forth a proposal to conserve Krumbiegel Hall, amongst other heritage buildings in Lalbagh. The cost of restoration was estimated to be Rs 16 lakh. The Horticulture department rejected the recommendation.

History enthusiasts said that it was lack of regular maintenance that snowballed into the death of the historic structure.

A lot of effort was put into suggesting a plan of action. Plaster and lathe could have been used to fix the cracks in the tiles and roof. The government departments just let the building collapse by neglecting all the measures.
Satya Prakash Varnasi, Former Convener, INTACH

Lack of Expertise and Means for Reclamation

Poor maintenance and lack of expertise saw the end of Lalbagh’s Krumbiegel Hall in Bengaluru.
Bulldozers knocked down the iconic Krumbiegel Hall at Lalbagh in Bengaluru last week.
(Photo Courtesy: Meera Iyer)

Several historical structures and temples across India have survived for hundreds of years despite harsh climatic conditions. They have stood the test of time with the help of architectural reforms and regular surveys. Historians believe that the Krumbiegel Hall could have been saved if right expertise was obtained.

Historians believe that the Krumbiegel Hall could have been saved if right expertise was obtained. “On the advice of some private agency the Horticulture and PWD department declared the hall as unstable. Our country is not so technically backward that we cannot save a 150-year-old building,” said Satya Prakash Varnasi, Former Convener of INTACH.

The loss of Krumbiegal Hall marks the end of lectures and cultural programs as part of the horticulture school in Lalbagh. The architects in Bengaluru are of the view that timely repairs using appropriate materials and techniques could have breathed life into the hall.

How can the Horiculture department take a decision on the irreparability of the building? When a 700-year-old site in Tanjore can be restored, we could have definitely recovered the Krumbiegal Hall. The government agencies did not consult the right experts.
Naresh Narasimhan, architect, Venkataramanan Associates

The Krumbiegal Hall was a one-of-a-kind building consisting of a well-designed facade, pediment and intricately carved designs of the British lion as well as the mythical figures of Yali.

Suresh Jayaram, an artist and curator, raised concerns over the rich cultural history that was washed away due to its demolition. “The government department should have at least made an effort to preserve certain parts or fragments of the structure. It is sad that people don’t value history these days,” he said.


Future Course of Action to Preserve Heritage Sites

  • The Lalbagh Botanical Garden in Bengaluru is home to an old aquarium.

    (Photo: Roshni Balaji/The Quint)

Bengaluru is home to a rich historical background consisting of ancient structures which denote the legacies of great empires and dynasties. The maintenance and conservation of these sites is imperative to avoid another demolition like Krumbiegal Hall.

If my great grandfather, Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel, was alive he would have stressed on the need to protect the rest of the history in Lalbagh. All of us need to work together to make this possible. 
Alyia Phelps Gardiner, CEO, Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel Foundation

Lalbagh still houses one of the city’s oldest structures – the aquarium building. The circular structure was once a vibrant attraction for visitors. Similar to the Krumbiegel Hall, this too has been neglected for the last few years.

As of today, the aquarium is nothing but an unused and abandoned edifice with battered walls and broken doors. “We need to learn from the Krumbiegel incident and ensure that the same mistake is not made again,” said Meera Iyer, Co-Convenor of INTACH.

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