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TN Assembly building mix of German, Dravidian architecture

Last updated: 06 March, 2010
M R Venkatesh Chennai, mar 6, DHNS 22:49 IST

When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi inaugurate the huge Tamil Nadu assembly-cum-secretariat complex here on March 13, it will be loaded with symbolism.

German architecture firm GMP has designed this dome.The two leaders will not only be unveiling an iconic, oval-shaped seven-storey structure connecting four buildings, but will also be solemnising a cross-cultural wedding billed as “unique” in post-modern architecture.

Unlike the British colonial style that marks many of India’s public buildings, a merger of German and Dravidian architecture is used here.

Its centre-piece is a spectacular 100 feet high, 800 tonne dome atop the sixth floor ceiling. Geodesic, a Bangalore-based company, is crystallising the dome.

The GMP, the world-renowned German architecture firm, has also contributed towards the design of this dome, with its blueprint enriched by the temple “vimana” or “shikara” form in Dravidian architecture, the team of officials, architects and engineers told the media on Saturday.

The dome comprises eight ribs emanating from eight pillars, each weighing 100 tonne that takes its weight, and ends at a circle on the top. “We have a big opening in the middle to let sunlight in, that makes it eco-friendly,” PWD Principal Secretary Ramasundaram said. The core structure of the dome in steel is in place, but the protective layer of aluminum lamination will not be ready for the inauguration. Its safety at that height for wind velocities and salt levels in the atmosphere –– as the structure is close to the sea –– needs further testing and hence the visible face of the dome will be a temporary faade made of light steel and covered with plywood to be ready just-in-time for the inauguration.

Well-known film art director Thota Tharrani has been asked to make the temporary faade, while the original dome built by Geodesic will be ready by May first week, officials said.

Is the dome inspired by a similar one atop the German Parliament building in Berlin ? “No, the only similarity is that it is a dome,” said Margret Bothig, Chief Architect, GMP.

“The temple ‘gopuram’ you find in South India is the base for this dome. It is not complete glass, we have used granite and aluminum metal, and the dome has come out of the concept of this building,” she said. Ravindra Joshi, Director, Pune-based Archivesta, GMP’s local partner, was also present.

As over 4,000 construction workers and engineers work at a feverish pace to put the finishing touch before the inauguration, the first A-Block part of the assembly-cum-secretariat complex, built at a cost of Rs 450 crore, will be fully completed by May this year. Ramasundaram said the ground and the first floors, including the new assembly hall, will be ready for the inauguration and the ensuing Budget session.

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