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(ARCHIVE) Vol. XX No. 2, may 1-15, 2010
Can Tamil signage lead to uniform signage?
(By a Special Correspondent)

The Corporation of Chennai, during its budget session, passed a resolution to strictly enforce its regulation on Tamil signage on shop fronts. A deadline of 31st May has been fixed for all shops and establishments to ensure that signage in Tamil occupies at least 50 per cent of the space on their signboards. This move is in keeping with the fact that all the States in the country are doing their best to protect their respective languages and give them prominence.

Immediately after the passing of the resolution by the Corporation, the Mayor of Chennai began leading an awareness drive on the regulation that is to come into effect. It should, however, be realised that this is not the first such attempt; the earlier one was in the 1990s when Dr. Thamizhkudimagan, who was then in the Government, led a similar attempt. However, after a change in Government, the move lost steam.

It would be relevant to point out here that less than 50 per cent of the city’s shops and establishments have complied with the order though it has been in existence since the 1990s. The Government would do well to mull over why this is so and discuss ways and means of ensuring that this becomes a self-governed issue and not one that will be complied with only when the civic bodies jump into overdrive.

Meanwhile, while insisting on this change, it would have been even better in the interests of aesthetics and uniform layouts/skylines, if the Corporation had used the opportunity to also implement a uniform and standard code for signage across the city. Today, while the city’s skyline is much improved after the removal of large outdoor billboards and hoardings, it suffers from a complete lack of standardisation when it comes to signage on shops and establishments. This not only leaves an impression of visual clutter but also makes the task of looking for information on them an exercise by itself. Such standardisation is a practice adopted in most world-class cities and Singapore is perhaps the best example. It is also relevant to point out that Singapore has four official languages and gives prominence to all four in its signages.

In Singapore, to which the State Government regularly looks for inspiration for many things, ranging from waterways to shopping malls, though perhaps not with the same degree of success, all signages come under the Building Control Act and specifically within the sub-section of Outdoor Advertising Regulations. Some of the relevant details are given in the accompanying box. In addition, Singapore also has regulations for signage on heritage buildings, which come under the Urban Redevelopment Authority as part of conservation guidelines. Details of these are also given in the box. In addition to these, commercial buildings follow their own standard signage requirements, giving their constituent units a uniform look. Similar regulations, for heritage buildings or otherwise, are also to be found in cities such as London and Dubai. In India, the city of Jaipur has been able to implement a regulation on uniform signage in the central business district of the old city. Why doesn’t the Corporation follow suit, especially now that it is determined to pay greater attention to one aspect of signage?

From the Building Control Act of Singapore

(1) Every licencee shall ensure that any advertisement, animated billboard, balloon sign, directional sign, signboard or skysign to which his licence relates complies with the following requirements:

  1. the advertisement, animated billboard, balloon sign, directional sign, signboard or skysign
    1. if displayed 5 metres or more above any street, shall not project more than 1.5 metres from the regular line of the street; and
    2. if displayed more than 3.75 metres but less than 5 metres above any street, shall not project more than 60 centimetres from the regular line of the street;
  2. the advertisement, animated billboard, balloon sign, directional sign or signboard, if fixed in a verandah-way or over a footpath, shall not be less than 2.5 metres above the level of the verandah-way or footpath; and
  3. the advertisement, animated billboard, directional sign or signboard, if projecting over any street, shall not be erected less than 2.5 metres above the cover of any roadside drain, measured vertically from the top of the cover to the underside of the advertisement, animated billboard, directional sign or signboard.

(2) No licencee shall illuminate or decorate by means of flickering, flashing or running lights any advertisement, directional sign, signboard or skysign that is visible from the street except with the prior approval of the Commissioner. 

(3) No licencee shall decorate by means of flickering, flashing or running lights any part of any frame or panel to which an animated billboard is affixed except with the prior approval of the Commissioner. 

Maintenance of advertisements

 Every licencee shall ensure that any advertisement, animated billboard, balloon sign, directional sign, signboard or skysign to which his licence relates is at all times maintained to the satisfaction of the Commissioner.

4.3 Approval For Conservation Signage

All signage proposals within Conservation Areas (except for premium service) are to be submitted directly to the Advertising Licensing Section of the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

Signage Guidelines

Key Elements

Location / Size

B4 Frieze

Individual letters or sign panel can be mounted within a frieze or suspended from a frieze.

B5 Upper

Signs can be projected from an upper storey Storey Façade pilaster. They are to be located at the left hand side of the building as viewed from the road.

The overall height of the sign (inclusive of the suspension brackets) cannot exceed the shaft of the pilaster.

The width of the sign is not more than 600mm, and the width for brackets is not more than 200mm.

[Amendment History: Modified in Aug 2009 for clarity to applicants]

For a building of Art Deco or Modern style, individual letters or panel sign sensitively planned and designed, can be mounted on the facade. They cannot cover or block any architectural features.

C End Gable Wall

Sign can be mounted within the width of an entrance
to a five-foot way and a door to the upper storey, where

Variations in the size and location can be considered on merits of the case if they meet the following criteria:

(a) The sign is attractively designed.

(b) It comprises mural painting on the wall, individual letters
and graphics, or flat-mounted display panels. Projected sign is not allowed.

(c) The sign does not cover or block any architectural
elements or features/ornaments.

(d) It does not overwhelm or adversely impact on the
architectural character of the building.

D Rear Wall

Signs can be mounted above a rear door and not to exceed the width of the door.

Variations can be considered based on the merits of
the case.


In this issue

Can Tamil signage lead to uniform signage?
Is Government really committed to maintaining heritage buildings?
Two tales of the Hall
A good season, but it could have been better
Historic Residences of Chennai - 41
Other stories

Our Regulars

Short 'N' Snappy
Our Readers Write
Quizzin' with Ram'nan
Dates for your Diary


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