Monday, 2 March 2015

Gillander House, Clive Street

It is fairly simple business to pigeonhole a building based on its architectural style. The Writers’ Building is Greco-Roman. The High Court is Gothic. The Esplanade Mansions are Art Nouveau. But one building in Calcutta completely defies such pigeonholing, partly because it was designed by a man who was a musician, alongside being an architect. The man in question is Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel, and the building is Gillander House.

Gillander House

The cast iron gate of Gillander House
Gillander House, located on the corner of Clive Street and Clive Row (now Netaji Subhash Road and Dr. Rajendra Prasad Sarani respectively), is quite easily one of the most unique and easy to recognize buildings in Calcutta. The curved façade has a domed tower at either end. There is extensive use of stone in the façade, as well as in the brackets which support the outward projected top floor. Another noticeable feature is the building’s domed entrance with a cast iron gate. The gate has two metal shields with two magnificent looking lions heads on them. Walk along the front, and you will also find elephants on the ledge of the ground floor.

One of the elephants of Gillander House
Gillander House still serves as the headquarters of Gillanders Arbuthnot & Co. Started by Mr. F. M. Gillanders and Mr. G. C. Arbuthnot in the early 19th century, Gillanders Arbuthnot & Co. was one of the many trading houses that operated from the Dalhousie Square area of Calcutta. Gillanders Arbuthnot & Co. has had, and continues to have interests in tea, textiles, engineering, chemicals and a motley collection of other things. It was incorporated as a Limited Company under the Indian Companies Act VII of 1913 on 1st February, 1935 and became part of the Kothari Group of Companies in the late 60’s. It is now headed by Mr. A.K. Kothari. The firm is one of the very few original founders of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce still operating under its original name.

Overhead view of Gillander House. Staff Quarters on roof.
The building was designed by eccentric British architect Harry Stuart Goodhart-Rendel, who was a composer, alongside being an engineer. He was still studying music in Trinity College when asked to design Gillander House, which would probably explain why he came up with such a unique and iconoclastic design. It was completed in 1909. A fire was reported in Gillander House in June of 2014, but things were brought under control fairly fast, and the century old building was saved. It houses, even today, multiple offices, as was the trend at the time of its construction.

- by Deepanjan Ghosh


Banerjea, Dr. Dhrubajyoti - European Calcutta
INTACH - Built Heritage Today
Soumitra Das – “Victoria in Sear”, The Telegraph, 25th November, 2006

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