National Trust moving to hire consultant for preservation of City Hall building

The National Trust of Guyana (NTG) has started preliminary work to hire a conservation consultant to develop a Preservation Plan for the City Hall building.

During a lecture at Umana Yana on Thursday, Chairman of the NTG Lennox Hernandez said that this process would be time consuming because it was not just a repair job that would require a few contractors since the skill level of the workmanship would need to be of the upmost importance.

Hernandez stated that there was no time frame set out to find either a local or international consultant even though the City Hall building is in desperate need of attention. He said that with the assistance of the World Monument Fund (WMF), the NTG and City Hall have written a joint proposal to the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation requesting financial assistance to commence the restoration project.

According to Hernandez, the WMF would help to facilitate lectures and meetings to bring awareness to the cause and it will then be the responsibility of the Culture Ministry and the NTG to utilise those opportunities to seek additional sources of financing.

Despite the urgency of the project, there have been no set deadlines so far as to when restoration will most likely commence, however the NTG and the Culture Ministry have stated that the full scope of the project could take three years.

A section of the dilapidated City Hall building
A section of the dilapidated City Hall building

Last April, Ihosvany De Oca Morales and Nigel Renwick, architects from TVA Consultants, a Grenadian company, visited Guyana to advise on the restoration of City Hall and one of them was quoted as saying that it was in “cardiac arrest.” Renwick also said that some issues need to be addressed immediately, while Morales had noted that the restoration of City Hall is a peculiar project but added that the building was an important icon.

It has been over a year since their recommendations and the situation remains the same.

Hernandez noted that it was necessary to get the youth more involved. However, garnering interest on the whole may prove difficult judging by the scant attendance at the lecture. Culture Minister Dr Frank Anthony stated that he was disappointed by the low turnout during his address as did Hernandez, who even pointed out that the lecture was tailored in such a way as to only discuss City Hall in the attempts that it would draw a large crowd. However, the general apathy over the issue could not be denied.

Researcher at the NTG Lauren Grant delivered a presentation highlighting the need for a Preservation Plan that would be used for regular maintenance work as well as for proposed changes. She said that restoration has been proven to spur other rehabilitation in other cities while at the same time drawing out skilled craftsmen capable of doing the work. Grant sought to encourage the participation of the business community by pointing out that the preservation of historic buildings stabilises property values.

Two presentations were given focusing on the tropical elements added to the gothic revival design of the building, which dates back to 1889, to make it usable in Guyana’s climate. Grant had stated that drainage and irrigation rehabilitation was needed urgently, which was also one of the findings by the consultants.

The TVA Consultants had found that the “greater part” of the deterioration of City Hall was a result of water ingress. They also stated that priority should be given to finding a solution to the situation, which was seen as the key factor triggering many other problems.

Three years ago, government had given the council $20 million to assist with the rehabilitation of the building but only $5 million had been spent to repair windows. Critics have stated that the government inclusive of City Hall have shown no real determination in addressing the dilapidated state of building which has been allowed to rot over the years, by contributing and promising such small sums of money.

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