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Dismantling Activity

Upon beginning dismantling activity at Tankshal-ni-Pol Masjid, the first line of action was to strengthen the existing safeguarding supports installed earlier. The objective of this activity was to dismantle the entrance wall of the mosque, located on the South-east portion of the wall. The local municipal body had issued a notice regarding the unsafe condition of this wall as it was out of plumb and posed a threat to the neighbourhood’s residents.

Dismantling the entrance wall meant that the interior space of the mosque would be vulnerable; left directly accessible from the outside since the mosque’s entrance door, housed within the wall to be dismantled, would no longer act as an entrance gateway. Therefore, a plywood temporary door was installed, keeping the principle of ‘minimal intervention’ in mind. The double door frame was custom-made to fit exactly in the opening, with wood planks tightening its grip within the existing I-Section frames. Two nails were drilled into the floor tiles to keep the door in place. Once the door is removed, these two holes in the stone tiles would be the only layer of evidence of this temporary door.

After this preparatory process was completed, an H-frame with cross braces and 'khapedas' was erected to access the upper floor and roof. The existing staircase leading to the above floor was unsafe, so this area was propped and the team directly accessed the upper floors via the mounted frame. The first act of dismantling was to carefully remove the roofing sheets which were to be used in the boundary fence. The sheets were doubly bolted to each other and also to the timber beams.

Once the roofing sheets were taken down, the next step was to carefully remove all the loose timber door and window frames which were partially unhinged from the wall, and some partially attached to the timber beams. After this, the timber beams were then sensitively cut at the end they continued into the mosque’s main structure. The beams were then transferred to the lower floor (for cataloguing and storing for future use), and the unloaded first-floor wall could now be dismantled.

The walls and window frames were dismantled element by element, storing all members that can be reused. As the upper floor rested upon I-sections and timber purlins, the next step was retaining this frame while carefully removing the flooring (cement layer on an earlier brick and lime composite). This marked the culmination of dismantling at the upper floor and now the team moved onto the lower walls of this South-east part of the structure. Props on the ground floor were retained, realigned, and re-secured to carry the weight of the now lighter upper floor’s beams and purlins.

Dismantling the ground floor walls started with removing the plaster to understand the brick size behind the outer layer. The ground floor walls were then dismantled brick by brick to reuse them for later stages of repair/rebuilding. The challenge at this junction was to ensure that the part of the wall housing the structure's entrance door, which is an important element in the mosque’s identity, was retained in the dismantling process. The existing staircase to the upper floor was also retained and supported, and once the ground wall had been completely dismantled, the props on the ground floor were rearranged for better load distribution.

Once the primary activity of dismantling was complete, the wall dismantled formed an important external boundary of the structure, which was now left exposed. To address this, a temporary timber frame was erected to enclose the space and the metal roofing sheets (Patras) were reused as the enclosing sheets on top of this timber frame installed.

A significant challenge in the the process of dismantling was to clear the debris collected during dismantling. Since Tankshal is a commercial area, debris collection tractors were only allowed to access the site during the wee hours of the day. The materials (bricks/timber frames/etc.) retrieved during dismantling stands as a record of the earlier construction. This material has been carefully extracted from various sections of the structure dismantled, and have been cataloged methodically. Throughout the process of dismantling, utmost care was taken for the safety of the team: site workers, CHC coordinators, and the volunteers that assisted on a few days of the process. Safety measures included safety jackets and harnesses, helmets, gloves, socks, shoes, and protective eyewear.

The next step is to now conduct Non-Destructive and Mild Destructive Tests on-site, to corroborate the condition assessment done visually, and then develop a detailed strategy for repair and further processes of conservation. After this activity has been completed, the site is left in the state displayed below.

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