Click here for more...

(ARCHIVE) Vol. XIX No. 23, march 16-31, 2010
A landmark arising
(By the Editor)

A landmark arising a bit differently from this concept of GMP Architects.

A landmark is arising in the city and when it is completed it will truly be one of the most striking buildings in Chennai. If only this new Assembly and Secretariat complex had been in the centre of Tamil Nadu, somewhere near Tiruchchirappalli, we would have greeted it with cheers – and heartfelt thanks – that at last a step had been taken to decongest a Madras being increasingly congested by the day. But with it arising in one of the most congested parts of the city and occupying a substantial part of one of its biggest lungs, we can only congratulate all those concerned with the design and execution of the project for creating a complex that will surely be a landmark dwarfing everything around it, but not for its location – which ensures not only congestion in the area but also continued congestion of the city. This journal’s years-old dreams of Tamil Nadu having a more central capital and Madras becoming less congested have vanished with the inauguration of this impressive complex whose speedy construction is something noteworthy.

The haste in construction, however, is what has made many leading architects and civil engineers wonder whether due attention has been paid to detail and the best engineering practices have been followed. The best buildings take time to build, particularly with testing at every step. Hasty construction often leads to the constant need for maintenance and subsequent corrective measures. Was there really a need to rush the raising of a building conceived in such a grand scale and envisaged from the first as a landmark for all time? After all, whatever the circumstances, the signal contribution of Chief Minister Mu. Karunanidhi to this complex will forever be recognised as it has been for Valluvar Kottam, Anna Arivalayam and the Tiruvalluvar statue in Kanniyakumari.

The haste, however, has unfortunately left several areas of concern. Firstly, the surroundings. Government Estate and the roads around it were home to hundreds of trees. With the green cover done away with, the immediate surrounding presents a stark appearance in which the new complex sticks out as though rising from a desert. It will be years, if ever, greening will return to the area. It is no doubt in the hope that greening will happen that a Gold rating to LEED’s international standards of ‘green rating’ has been given to a complex where every tree in sight has been axed. It is also to be hoped that energy usage and environmental friendliness – both still untested – will in the future fulfil the norms for a Gold green rating, even if two huge energy-guzzling neon signs, not exactly green-friendly, have already appeared atop the central building.

Secondly, there is the question of the much designed and redesigned dome. In a country that has specialised in dome construction for centuries, surely this should not have posed a problem. Indeed, maybe, there is no problem at all; it is just that a longer time is needed for excellent dome construction. In which case, it only means that even while the Assembly will hold its Budget Session, work will continue on the dome and other parts of the building amidst chaos that can only be imagined.

Thirdly, traffic conditions. Despite the hectic road widening going on, VIP traffic will bring with it restrictions. How will this affect the traffic on all the thoroughfares here which are all arterial roads? One certain effect will be increased levels of vehicular emissions – and that is a criterion a LEED’s rating pays particular attention to.

Fourthly, the impact of this VVIP complex is bound to have an impact on the citizenry in the surrounding areas. The auto spares market in Pudupet has been asked to move, according to reports. Already the mansions and lodges of Triplicane have been asked to install surveillance cameras to monitor the comings and goings of guests. This could happen elsewhere in the area too. What price privacy!

Lastly, heritage. What is the future of Rajaji Hall, first built as a Council Hall (see page 4), as it gets dwarfed by the surrounding complex and overwhelmed by the security around, which would rather put off public usage of it as a venue. Already the handsome iron gates and horse boxes by their side have all fallen to the wreckers’ hammers. The Kalaivanar Arangam, also built as an Assembly hall, has vanished, as has Government House with its 200 years of history. Are these all pointers that heritage has no meaning, that only the present matters?

In that present, if only the inauguration of this grandiose complex had taken place after all these aspects had been dealt with and everything was in place, we could have truly been proud of ourselves in the completion of yet another project that, in the Tamil Nadu tradition, had been well-planned and well-executed. But now we will have to wait for a couple of years for that happy fruition. When Madras Musings would still be saying why couldn’t all this have happened near Trichy?


In this issue

A landmark arising
What are we planning for the Buckingham Canal?
A waterway & an expressway in conflict
The Mylapore festival – that Sister Devamata witnessed 100 years ago
Historic Residences of Chennai - 38
Other stories

Our Regulars

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


Back to current issue...