Urban conservationist aims to preserve art deco style buildings

Art deco (sometimes referred to as deco) is a style of visual arts, architecture and design that first appeared in France.
Pilot theatre. portion of Dasaprakash hotel, a building in Mannady (Inset) Prathyaksha
Pilot theatre. portion of Dasaprakash hotel, a building in Mannady (Inset) Prathyaksha

Chennai

While growing up, Prathyaksha Krishnaprasad used to visit the Dasaprakash Hotel not just to dine, but also to play in the play area of the hotel that is made in art deco style. Years later, the landmark hotel has given way to a new complex. Like that there are many art deco structures in the city. To identify and document the remaining art deco buildings in Chennai, Prathyaksha, an urban conservationist started an initiative called Art Deco Madras. “My father, who is a movie buff, used to tell me how the Pilot Theatre in Royapettah was an important hangout spot in the city. All these personal experiences drove me to start the initiative. After my studies, I was working with Art Deco Mumbai for a short period. That association was also another inspiration to document the precious art deco style of architecture of Madras/Chennai,” Prathyaksha tells us.
Art deco (sometimes referred to as deco) is a style of visual arts, architecture and design that first appeared in France. The deco buildings in Madras are found in pockets, in various historic localities (Royapettah, Poonamallee High Road, Nungambakkam) of the city as compared to the continuous stretch of buildings in Mumbai. “The typologies are also distinctly localised with talkies (cinema halls), sprawling bungalows and majestic clock towers at prominent nodes, dotting the city. Many institutional buildings, hotels and commercial establishments can also be found in this style of architecture. However, over the past few years, we have lost such masterpieces to the pressures of re-development. Indo Saracenic architecture was dominating the architecture style in Madras. Later, there was a shift from colonial style to a more modern style. Visual/digital documentation would help us understand and appreciate such an architectural style that paved the way to a modern metropolis. I believe that a requiem to the buildings that we’ve lost would help us appreciate what we have and join hands in preservation/conservation,” the architect explains.
She believes that the public needs to know and appreciate the heritage of the 20th century. “Art deco was looked at as an opportunity for expression by various Indian architects. Many local influences through reliefs, imagery and decorative elements can be seen in the buildings of this era. I hope through my initiative people can easily identify art deco architecture buildings in their locality,” she states.

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