About the Project

The Seth Ram Lal Khemka Haveli was a derelict haveli situated in the heart of the commercial whole sale market of Chotta Bazaar in the Kashmere Gate area of the walled city of Delhi. The original haveli dates back to the 1850s, but the present owner's family acquired it in 1920. The present owner bought out his cousins and consolidated the front courtyard of the haveli in his ownership in 2010.

The brief of the project was that the present owner has three sons and he wished to restore and renovate the house to facilitate their marriages. Being a typical Indian Marwari joint family, seeking arranged alliances for their sons, the aim was to showcase a nice house for their prospective brides!

We are approached by the present owner to do up the interiors of this house in May 2010. Our first site visit proved beyond doubt that beyond the layers of decay and dereliction lied a gem, that  had tremendous potential to be carefully adapted and reused into a beautiful heritage home, keeping its old world charm and yet catering to the needs of contemporary living!

A herculean project from its inception, it took us 3 months to just socialise the owner with the concept of heritage, antiquity and broaden his perspective from wanting flashy and contemporary interiors to appreciating the old world charm of his home. Once on board, he was all enthusiastic to restore the haveli to its original grandeur and charm...a process that took another two years, till he legally got possession of the house.

Thus in 2012, two years later he was ready to begin work on his house. A project like this required immense planning and a methodological approach and it was our firm belief that we wanted to adopted a "Conservation Plan Approach", thus we set up first by measured drawing the entire building to prepare the blueprint of the house, analysed its evolution and architecture and thus its significance and then developed policies and principles for its reuse.

Drawing up a comprehensive conservation plan requires time and the owner was in a hurry to start the work. Luckily for us, the Archaeological Survey of India had in 2010 issued an amendment that said that prior permission needed to be sought from them for any work within 300m of a protected monument. The haveli came at a close 292 m. Thus began a process of understanding the new legislation and preparing the relevant documents based on our analysis and documentation. The NOC from the ASI took another 2 months in October 2012 to come and when it did, it further directed us to the local body Municipal Corporation of Delhi for their permission as the haveli had subsequently been listed by the Delhi Government in 2010. Thus we set off on another journey of seeking permission from the Heritage Conservation Committee.

Elaborate drawings and documents were prepared by us based on our conservation plan along with a model to the Heritage Conservation Committee. The project was particularly appreciated as it was the first private initiative in conservation of a haveli, it adopted principles of international best practice and had the potential of being a benchmark for others to follow! The final NOC from the local body arrived in Oct 2013.

And thus work began on site in November 2013...

We are very keen to share our experiences with the conservation of this haveli with one and all, if you wish to visit the project, please drop us an email at studio.ata.delhi@gmail.com or call Vaibhav at +91 8800231345 for arranging a custom visit and guided tour.

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