Written by Sonali Dhanpal, Architect & Built Heritage Conservationist; Conservation Studies alumni (2016-17)
Built in 1907, Fort High School (Figure 1) is an unprotected historic building that stands two storeys high next to one of Bengaluru’s prized monuments, Tipu Sultan’s Summer Palace on one side and a large open ground on the other. Despite its idyllic location, this courtyard building has withstood the test of time and stands as was intended over 110 years ago. At present it is used as a high school and pre-university college run by the government, catering to over 500 students annually. Its present use makes it a unique conservation project that will involve introducing much needed modern amenities to the school, accommodating the public grounds that surround the building while retaining the historicity of a heritage building.
The site on which Fort High School stands is where the Mysore gate of the Bangalore fort once stood. It was the southern gate of the fort and it was here that in 1791 that the British martyred the soldiers of Tipu Sultan in the infamous Third Anglo-Mysore War. The building itself is equally important, as it was the first established government high school in the Mysore Province and was built at a time when the princely state of Mysore, under the administration of Maharaja Krishna Raja Wadiyar, began to develop the state. Opened as the English Vernacular school in 1905 and renamed as Fort High School 1907, the school boasts of associations with many prominent personalities of the Karnataka state.
The building fits the description of an Anglo-Vernacular style with elements of European architecture such as the scale and symmetry of the octagonal projecting bays (Figure 2) seen in the front elevation. The vernacular style is seen from the central courtyard (Figure 3) with rooms on all sides, the Madras terrace and sloping roof with Mangalore tiles (Figure 4). The ornamental features, such as the use of Roman arches with key stones above openings (Figure 5), gable ends with gable windows, and detailing such as cornices and wooden fascia, all give a colonial expression to the building.
Another interesting result of the detailed survey conducted was that more than adequate evidence was found to determine that the school was built in two phases. This evidence ranged from differences in structural treatment, surface treatment, closing of gable windows, addition of new joinery details between the original structure and the later intervention. A few of the other interesting elements are:
i.) A unique timber-steel composite truss is seen supporting 8 primary angular rafters and a series of secondary rafters running along 4 ridges and 4 valleys from a single intersection point (Figure 6). This type of truss is seen in three prominent rooms on the first floor. Continue reading