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Vol. XXXI No. 18, January 1-15, 2022

Heritage Watch: If State Bank cannot restore its building, then who will?

Reader and regular contributor Sujatha Vijayaraghavan’s article (The stained glass marvels of the State Bank of India – Madras branch) on the stained-glass panels at the SBI Main Office on First Line Beach triggers off this post. Once recognised as a significant piece of architecture that embellished our city’s skyline, this seemingly solid edifice is in reality a hollow shell, much of its interior having been ravaged by fire in 2014. Seven years later, there is no sign of the promised restoration. On the other hand, the building has been practically abandoned to the elements, which in our view is always a forerunner to demolition.

The interior of the building was as much an architectural wonder as the exterior is. And that had already suffered much depredation in the light of crass changes by way of partitions and false ceilings. It is not clear as to how much of that has survived post fire and it would be a pity if all of it was just swept away over time. Hopefully some good sense will prevail.

Our OLD dates to 1915, and is from Somerset Playne’s Southern India. It shows the Bank of Madras building as it was known, without a compound wall. The second, is from a picture postcard dating to the 1930s, that shows a wall and also other buildings close by. Even today, the SBI building is impressive from the outside. If there are some SBI staffers among Madras Musings readers we request them to take up the question of restoration with the top management of the bank.

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