In the quest to become conservationists, these civil engg students toured historic marvels of Sec'bad

Secunderabad celebrates 215 years this year and to mark the occasion, the students of Matrusri Engineering College visited ten sites of historical importance to observe and reflect on their condition
Saidani Ma Tomb | (Pic: Matrusri Engineering College)
Saidani Ma Tomb | (Pic: Matrusri Engineering College)

What happens when you unleash a couple of Civil Engineering students on the architectural wonders that the city of Secunderabad holds close to its heart? They begin to value conservation. "As engineers, we are obsessed with the construction of new buildings and structures, but only one chapter in our syllabus is dedicated to retrofitting, repair and rehabilitation of yesteryear structures. So this opportunity gave us a chance to step aside from concrete and new-age complexes and pay attention to the conservation of edifices from the bygone era," says Abhinav Krishna, student of Matrusri Engineering College, Hyderabad. 

Out and about

And what better occasion to do this than in 2021, the year in which this twin city of Hyderabad quietly celebrates 215 years of existence. After their heritage club Dharohar was launched under the aegis of Assistant Professor Vrushali Kamalakar in April 2021 and right after, the group of eight students visited ten crest-jewels of Secunderabad in a span of 14 days. Recently, they made a presentation on this, titled Historic Structures of Secunderabad - A Brief Study from Structural Engineering View, which they confidently delivered at First STEP - Student Project Series, an initiative by Centre for VENUS (a research and advocacy group) and Vasaamaha Consultants (an architectural firm).

Saidani Ma Tomb

No matter how much of a hurry you are in, if you've zipped past The Yacht Club of Hyderabad, there is no way you wouldn't have noticed Saidani Ma Tomb. It surely stands out, whether by magnificence or its state of ruin, that's another matter. "Our main work was to visit these sites, photograph them extensively and make visual assessments to understand the architectural components of the structure and the extent of damage," shares Abhinav while fellow teammate Bhargava Yasaswi adds, "We ended up learning a lot about the importance of civil engineering in the field of conservation. This was the whole point of the project."

The rest of their team members are G Sai Teja, M Sridhar, T Srikanth, B Rakesh Reddy, G Uday and D Prathyusha. The Head of the Civil Engineering Department is Dr G Manohar

The students noted structural aspects, like the load-bearing walls and arches of the first and second storeys and the self-supporting bulbous dome. On their trip to Bansilalpet Bungalow, they noted that cement was used to repair the stone columns and yet, the sturdy walls of the bungalow were looking weak due to the appearance of damp patches — these are from their notes on the condition of the structure. "It felt like there is no proper bond between the original structure and the cement," share the 21-year-olds. Oliphant Bridge near Secunderabad Railway Station also served as one of their pitstops. "The pattern of load transfer of conventional bridges is so different from the new ones. The self-supporting arches of this bridge are a marvel,” shares Abhinav.

Bansilalpet Bungalow

Though they are a team of eight, only a few of them could visit these structures because the rest weren't in the city, owing to the pandemic. Since this was before the lockdown came down harshly, these students would attend classes till 3 pm and visit these monuments after. "Before this field visit, we used to see these monuments as relics from the past that are withering away. Now, we see them as engineers and conservationists, we see these structures for what they are," says Yasaswi passionately. Both the students and the club are committed to the project and want to take it forward. 

Stop and stare
- Tower of Silence, Bhoiguda: Built of stone masonry, its structure has blind arches on both sides. It's one of two dokhmas (or Tower of Silence) where, traditionally, dead bodies were left exposed on the top so that vultures could feed on them
- Tank Bund Police Outpost, Khairatabad: Coarse rubble masonry has been used for the structure, while lime mortar has been used for the joints. The front porch is ably supported by load-bearing arches  

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