The Napier Museum building

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  • The Napier Museum building, with its unique architectural style, stands apart from all the other heritage structures in and around Thiruvananthapuram.
  • Set in the sprawling grounds of the Public Gardens, the majestic structure is a fine specimen of Indo-Saracenic style in architecture.
  • The advent of Indo-Saracenic style in erstwhile Travancore can be dated back to the time of Ayilyam Tirunal Rama Varma. His reign (1860 to 1880) witnessed construction activities on a grand scale.
  • The growing fondness for Neo-classical (colonial) style of architecture amongst Anglophile rulers and aristocratic nobles reflected in the new edifices constructed during his reign.
  • The Huzur Cutcherry building (the Secretariat complex), constructed in 1869, under the supervision of Chief Engineer Barton, was a remarkable architectural contribution.
  • However, the Indo-Saracenic architectural style remained alien to Travancore until Lord Napier set foot in Travancore.
  • The design submitted by Chisholm introduced to the residents in Travancore the novel Indo-Saracenic style, with its Indo-Islamic, and Indian elements, in harmonious unison with Gothic architecture.
  • Chisholm’s design for the Napier Museum, strategically placed on top of a hill, cleverly incorporated the sweeping sloping roof and intricately carved gables, majestic bay windows supported on six finely crafted vyalis (mythical beasts) – typical Kerala elements – alongside multi-foliated and pointed arches. Stained glass was also used to enhance the quality of the light falling inside the building.
  • All the corners of the structure are lined with carefully hewn stone bricks, whereas the walls are constructed using burnt bricks.
  • The geometric brickwork pattern on the wall lends a touch of elegance to the entire composition.