|By Mini Pant Zachariah, Hindustan Times,
New DelhiMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 2, 2008 - --MUMBAI -- A lesser building would have collapsed from the pounding it took during the anti-terror operations that lasted 59 hours, but the Taj hotel stands intact.
While the inside may be gutted, the structure itself withstood the blasts and gunbattles that lasted nearly three days.
So how did the 105-year-old building remain standing?
"The strength comes from the strong basalt stone, the large solid base and the design itself -- atrium in the middle and the smaller cut-outs in the heritage wing," explained Brinda Somaiya, conservation architect.
The Taj, that took five years to be completed and opened in 1903, was built with teakwood, Chinese mosaic flooring, rolled steel joists, girders and coarse rubble. JN Tata had ordered 20 steel-spun pillars, the latest technology at the time, for the ballroom that came under brutal assault during the terror strike.
In the 1950s, the hotel underwent additions and alterations. But, being a Grade 2A heritage building, the changes were minimal. The open galleries and shafts were left untouched. This helped minimise the damage.
The sixth floor that bore the brunt of the attack, was added in the '60s. A decade later, the 23-storey tower wing was added with decorative arches and balconies overlooking the sea.
Last week, as flames engulfed the structure, there were concerns that the extensive use of wood would make the structure vulnerable. Somaiya said it depends on the section of wood used. "If the section of wood is big enough, it can withstand fire even if the outer part catches fire," she said. "Like an old lady with great inner strength, the Taj withstood the assault."
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Copyright (c) 2008, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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