“Reviving Twentieth-century Medical Legacy – The Case of Banarasi Dass Women’s Hospital, Sadar Bazaar, Ambala Cantonment, India”
Keywords:Water sensitive development, regional planning, Integrated design, flood management, conservation of natural heritage
One of the notable advancements of late 19th-early 20th century British India was the introduction of ‘western-style’ medical care for women. Located within confines of the colonial or princely enclaves, a number of women’s hospitals, staffed with trained British female doctors, were established under the Dufferin Fund. But the benefits of medicalised childbirth did not extend to commonplace Indian women. At this point of time, history was also made by certain philanthropic and nationalist individuals who made some pioneering efforts to extend benefits of medicalised childbirth to the vast neglected body of commonplace Indian women.
The 48-bedded Banarsi Dass Hospital for Women, built in 1922 within the dense urban fabric of Ambala Cantonment, is one of the earliest of such pioneering structures. The architectural value of the building as seen in its ingenious spatial organization was devised to ensure generous access to sun and air, ensured thermal comfort in all seasons, a construction system representative of the era, and various ornamental elements that proclaim its ‘monumental’ status adds to its unique historic significance. Though the building is still in a good physical and structural condition, the advancement in medical world has rendered its infrastructure obsolete.
In the present scenario, we tend to lose a significant landmark of 20th century development in India. This paper presents an analysis of the historic, societal and architectural value of the property, the reasons for its disuse and the design interventions proposed to restore the original societal and architectural status of this majestic historic building.
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