Government unveils designs for new Assembly


Details of the design for the new Assembly building complex for the Tamil Nadu government have been coming out. The buildings it appears will be modernistic in look incorporating a few Dravidian elements.


The original layout had five circular courtyards with the main assembly hall in the fourth. It has now been decided to have four courtyards only and the assembly has been shifted to the second court. The assembly hall was earlier planned with a dome that looked like the one at the Reichstag in Germany. This will now be modified to resemble the gopurams of the rathas of Mahabalipuram. It is reliably learnt that all buildings will be of locally available granite and hopefully they will not be faced with the regulation red granite that our PWD is so fond of.


The entire complex will be divided into two principal blocks, the first one being the Assembly and the second the Secretariat. There are reports that the second one will have around 20 storeys making it one of the tallest buildings in the city. There will also be a convention centre within the compound.


All this is most admirable, but the plan has a few logistic issues which it will be well worth the Government’s while to ponder over before work begins. The only entry and exit for vehicles, and this includes the high security convoys, will be near the intersection of Mount Road and Sivananda Salai (Adams Road). This is a very busy intersection being an oft used route for those wishing to access the station. Sivananda Salai is a narrow stretch with the river on one side and the MRTS going directly above it. It is also one of the last green stretches in the city. With government vehicles frequently using this road and also Mount Road, there are chances that traffic will be stopped whenever ministerial convoys use them. This will lead to an enormous pile-up of traffic. It must be borne in mind that in order to access Fort St George, the convoys are presently using Beach Road which sees less traffic and is also very broad. That not being the case in the new location, traffic bottlenecks are foreseen.


The PWD, never known to be proactive, has stated that it needs to study the relocation of bus-stops along Mount Road and Wallajah Road junction. The pedestrian entry to the Assembly complex will be along this intersection. If the bus-stops are to be moved away from here, it will mean pedestrians will have to walk much longer and perhaps cross the roads at all kinds of places, thereby making their journey more hazardous. It is strange that the impact of placing the Secretariat/Assembly in the heart of the most important thoroughfare has not been studied as yet. It is only now that traffic experts have been called in. They will therefore have no option but to accept the site as a reality and work towards changing the traffic flow, adopting a post facto approach, always a solution that is fraught with problems.


The presence of a tall skyscraper, which is what the Secretariat promises to be, standing out among low-rise buildings may be flattering to some egos, but what it does to the aesthetics of a place is a different matter altogether. May Day Park, which has remained a sylvan oasis, will soon be run over by hangers on and petitioners, always to be associated with any government complex.


The original design as worked on by the architects from Germany has undergone a number of changes, apparently with interventions being received from the highest level. The designers had apparently in their original design incorporated Government House, Gandhi Illam and Rajaji Hall. But there was pressure to do away with the first two and only retain the third. While the demolition has been done, it is interesting to see that all reports on the new Assembly emphasise the point that Rajaji Hall has been left untouched. What everyone conveniently forgets is that two buildings, one of them among the oldest buildings in the city and the other a museum dedicated to the Mahatma have been done away with. A new question that emerges is related to the future of Rajaji Hall itself. Till now it had been a convenient venue for meetings organised by those with limited budgets. Now the building, practically shut off inside what will be a high security enclave, will be practically useless. And everyone knows what happens to heritage buildings that are not used regularly. Perhaps that is also part of a grand plan.