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2005 Award of Distinction

Mehrangarh Fort

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Technical Brief

Adaptive Reuse as a Museum

One of the important conservation issues with the Mehrangarh Fort project was adaptive reuse in a way that would respect the quality of the spaces within the complex. The usability of spaces helps in safeguarding this unique heritage for posterity. A conscious decision was taken at the outset that the adaptive reuse of spaces was to be in the spirit of minimum intervention. There would not be any major alteration or additions to the buildings. The goal was to recognize the intrinsic quality of the architecture and enhance the spatial experience for visitors. For this, the museum was an important aspect.

Following completion of the conservation work, the palace spaces were opened to visitors as period rooms and galleries. Hence, the museum was not confined to one room but was spread over various parts of the fort. The museum acts as the central feature, guiding movement of visitors within the fort such that visitors experience the historic architecture, rich diversity of spatial quality and priceless historic objects arranged in meaningful displays. To make this journey more interesting, visitors move through courts, which are located at different levels and provide various visual experiences, and visitors interact with various parts of the museum collection. For instance, visitors have to go up a ramp to enter the interior of the fort. From the ramp, the entire facade of the fort, with its various palaces and features, is visible.

The internal adaptive reuse was carried out in a discreet manner, with an eye to ease of reversibility. In installing display cases and other items for fitting out the museum, the designers sought to use elements that could be removed easily.

The selected flooring, wall finishes, doors, windows and furniture layout also respected the original quality of space. Display showcases and tables in the museum were arranged so that they do not block any historical elements of the space. The showcases hung on the walls were painted the same colours as the walls, allowing the structure of the showcases to merge with the background walls. In the Daulat Khana palace special showcases were designed to display arms and were hung on the wall at eye level to enable a clear view, and the showcase tables were arranged between the columns. In other rooms, objects were displayed in niches formed by arches.

Many of the spaces have rich artwork such as paintings and mirrors, which were preserved in situ. Certain rooms used by kings and queens in the past were preserved and restored to their original condition, including wall finishes and furniture layout. These galleries display the objects used by the royal family. Miniature paintings, weapons, utensils, clothes, ornaments and artworks form part of the collection. These rooms thus convey an idea of the lifestyle of the royal family in the past. Objects are also displayed in other parts of the fort as reminders of their respective historic contexts. Each object is placed as a focal point in the space in which it is displayed.

Lighting was carefully planned to combine natural and artificial light. In the painting gallery, the miniature paintings are displayed on the wall facing the windows and natural light allows the paintings to be viewed with true colours. Use of UV glass and the placement of the paintings at a certain distance from the light sources ensure acceptable levels of exposure. In the Palkhi Khana gallery, the ambient light is dim and spotlights are used to focus the palkhi (palanquins) allowing one to see the objects clearly and still experience the space. In the Houda Khana gallery, openings in the wall in the northeast allow for controlled daylight to light the interior space while also providing ventilation.

Adapted from the “Mehrangarh Fort UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards entry submission