From French to French
During the course of numerous visits to Pondicherry on a quest to find ancient structures, Francis Wacziarg and Aman Nath discovered the house on 17, rue Romain Rolland.
The mansion in which Dune De L’Orient is situated, dates back to when Pondicherry was being rebuilt, in the 1760’s. During a restoration of the the room called «Masulipatam», an inscription reading «H. RUDER 1809» was discovered; this points out that a French family occupied the mansion at that time. For the next two centuries, French occupation continued. The mansion was bought from the Sinnas family, to whom it belonged since 1952.
Since 1952, it had been occupied by the French Department of Education. The building was named the «Instruction Publique» – the board is still above the entrance door. The building was about to be vacated by the Department as it had been declared unsafe.
The house was officially acquired in October 1998 by Francis Wacziarg , and a few arches and ceilings had to be rebuilt when restoration started as they were indeed on the verge of collapsing. The main focus for the restoration process was to try to revive the 18th century atmosphere. In all places where it was possible, the ancient Chettinad plaster was preserved and the red oxide flooring repaired, without being changed. All the bathrooms were given a modern touch with ocre terracota epoxy paint, and were equipped with solar heating water systems. Most of the wooden beams had been eaten out by termites, and were thus replaced. The paint on the ceilings was not touched upon.
It won the Unesco Asia-Pacific Heritage Award for Culture Heritage Conservation in 2000.