Among the first examples of European neo-classical architecture in Hyderabad, the Chowmahalla Palace was built by Nizam Salabat Jung in the 1750’s. This complex, which consists of buildings around two main courtyards, grew incrementally over the years thus displaying consistencies in architectural styles within the complex. The complex is broken up into two clear parts, the first that contains a series of rooms around a large courtyard and a waterbody within the main Khilwat (centerpiece of the complex) located at the apex of the courtyard. The rooms, presumably guest rooms in the past, have now been adapted to serve as spaces for craftsmen to work in and sell their wares. The Khilwat which contains the Darbar Hall (Throne Room) is being restored to be converted into a Museum to house costumes and artifacts from the Nizam’s collection. The second half of the complex contains four palaces, also organized around a courtyard and waterbody, which will be restored to create Museums on the Nizam’s dynasty.
In the recent past, pressures of urban densification around the palace have caused the complex to shrink to its present size of 12 acres as a number of ancillary buildings were lost in this process of illegal encroachments and densifications in the adjoining city fabric. Furthermore, from the 1970’s to the year 2000 the palace complex was virtually disused causing a number of buildings to collapse in part and deteriorate significantly.
The restoration project was embarked upon in the year 2000 and was structured to be executed in three phases. The first phase involved a detailed mapping, fabric survey and the preparation of conservation reports for both the restoration of the buildings as well as potential re-use patterns that might help review the usefulness of these historic structures. The second phase involved stabilizing the buildings under threat of collapse and carrying out other emergency repairs such as waterproofing and propping to check further deterioration. The final phase involved the actual restoration of the complex and the introduction of amenities to facilitate reuse of these structures.
The restoration of these buildings was carried out using traditional craftsmen and techniques, and a range of elements in the buildings were conserved in order to maintain the integrity of these historic structures. Besides structural repairs and stabilization, the restoration of several architectural features such as granite arches, decorative work in lime plaster, and terracotta balusters were some of the tasks carried out for the restoration project. Actual restoration work on the project commenced in the year 2002 and the first phase which includes the Crafts Center and Khilwat was completed in December 2004.