Scripting a sequel for Singara Chennai

In May 2021, when the DMK government was elected to power, it revived the Singara Chennai Project — originally initiated by the late M Karunanidhi.

Published: 18th April 2022 05:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th April 2022 05:48 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

CHENNAI:  In May 2021, when the DMK government was elected to power, it revived the Singara Chennai Project — originally initiated by the late M Karunanidhi. A host of projects have been taken up; the chief among them being the Smart Cities Project. The pedestrian plaza in Pondy Bazaar, renovation of historic landmarks, beautification of subways and flyovers, Kathipara Urban Square, and Chennai Central Square are promising examples of areas that got an infrastructural makeover since then. 

On World Heritage Day, 12 city-based architects, historians, urban planners, and photographers call attention to more such locations in the city and explain why they deserve an integrated holistic development under Singara Chennai 2.0.

Reagan Bosco, architect
Perungudi dumpyard is an underestimated place that has tonnes of potential and challenges. Unlike the other dumpyards, here, relocating the mountains of garbage that have been accumulated over the years is next to impossible, with the court order to relocate the dump yard. The only possibility is to leave the mountains of garbage behind and move it to a new location. That’s where the real task of the Chennai Corporation starts — to convert the huge pile of garbage into something useful that protects the interest of the marshland, the community surrounding it. In my opinion, we can have the space converted into an eco forest similar to the Bilar Eco Park in the Philippines.

Sneha Vivek, architect
It’s the smaller spaces of our urban landscape that are being neglected. Spaces like footpaths can be widened and made usable. The presence of trees, providing a canopy along the path, would contribute to the same. Provisions for adequate street lights can increase safety. Another largely available space is ones under our flyovers. Beyond practical solutions, it can be used as a space for activities such as night markets, public gyms, workshop spaces, and even skate parks!

Asmitha Athreya, architect 
I would suggest the Madras Labour Union building in Perambur, primarily because it plays an integral role in the labour history of the city and the country. It could transform beautifully into a museum, for instance, that celebrates the labour movement that originated in the city and transformed the labour landscape.

Remona, historian
Burma Bazar, located in Parrys Corner, has been visited by many for a countless number of years. From imported products to local handicrafts, technological devices, toys, etc., the Bazar has everything from A-Z that can be bought at a cheaper price by anyone. This long stretch has limited parking space and walking area for people which often leads to traffic jams. So, Burma Bazar can be given a new lease of life by including spacious pathways for the public and the vendors.

Kaushik Shrinivas, architect
I’ve resided in Villivakkam, opposite the vegetable market, all my life. Although it is one of the largest markets in Chennai, it can be accessed only on narrow roads. This makes it difficult for vendors to load and unload vegetables, ultimately causing congestion. I think this location deserves an efficient makeover, one that will be both vendor-friendly and resident-friendly. The market abuts the Villivakkam railway station. A flyover is being constructed nearby. Hence, the entire stretch has been cleared and the roads between the flyover and the market have been widened. That stretch can be used for visitors’ parking and loading and unloading zone. So that we can avoid the  residents’ area.

Kalpana Ahmed, conservation architect
The fishing communities who dot our long coastline, the doll makers of north Madras’ Kosapet, the cane weavers who made the Spur Tank their home, the washermen who live off the edges of our ponds are treated as encroachers on their own land. The diverse culture of our inner cities - the craft of Triplicane, the hustle and bustle of George Town... are being replaced with a cold, sanitised world. Should we not then provide space for the continued existence of all our people/cultures as well as the diversity of built/life forms within our definition of heritage?

Madhusudhanan Kalaichelvan, architect
Thiruvanmiyur, a town sanctified in the sacred verses of Tevaram, is described as a settlement with streets broad enough to run chariots even then. With a grand temple campus and a scenic tank, and the four streets surrounding the temple, it may be declared a heritage zone and decluttered of its encroachments. The plaza outside the temple with an ornate 16-pillared stone mandapam, steps leading to the tank and spacious green pockets around it are all visually hidden unaesthetically. Streetscape design and façade design of structures may be designed keeping in mind the heritage value. 

Krishnakumar TK, heritage enthusiast 
No one passing through this busy road could miss glancing at the three Gothic-style grand arches and the elegant tombstones inside the vast patch of land. However, hardly anyone would be brave enough to venture inside this highly neglected site called St. Mary’s Cemetery. Besides many burials from the World Wars, the 260-year-old cemetery has tombs of many eminent personalities too. Trespassing, the presence of stray dogs and snakes, overgrown trees and shrubs, and vandalism have made this site inaccessible. This historic place deserves an urgent makeover to turn picturesque again.

Naveen Kumar, chartered accountant and photographer  
Triplicane has a lot of heritage and religious monuments/landmarks.  One such hidden treasure is the Broadlands Lodging House or Broadlands Hotel which has been in existence since the 1950s. This has four generations of history and was once the Turkish Consulate of Madras. It can certainly be made known to a lot more people or made into something more accessible; perhaps, even a cafe.

Sanchana S, architect 
M ada Street around the Mylapore temple tank and Kutchery Road call for a makeover. Problems of traffic congestion in narrow streets, less interactive space for rituals and cultural activities to cater to more masses during festivities than originally intended too could be addressed. Having established its significance, it is of paramount importance that the living heritage of Mylapore is appreciated and preserved. So, the focus could be more on identifying congestion zones and re-routing them, creating pedestrian-friendly and inclusive spaces for street hawkers, and rejuvenating the temple tank as a congregating space that can celebrate the glorious legacy of its past.

Ganesh Venkataraman, architect
As an architect who is very interested in conservation, I would say that First Line Beach Road — all along the Marina — is an important stretch with almost every other building being a grade 1 listed heritage structure. If one could imagine a heritage boulevard with plazas and parks amidst these buildings along the beach, it would celebrate the natural and the cultural/built heritage of Chennai. The PWD building, Ice House, Senate House, GPO, and Chepauk Palace dot this stretch with so much history, culture, and architectural character embedded in them.

Srishti Prabakar, artist and urban planning student 
Ibelieve the Central Square project deserves a thoughtful makeover. These witness several people on a daily basis and are often a major influence on the impression a city has on a person. From a heritage point of view, of course, it is important to not look only at the architecture but also at all the social and human aspects that come along with it. The other important thing to keep in mind while planning these makeovers is being inclusive along with barrier-free accessibility, making everyone feel comfortable in the public space.

(Inputs: Catharinal Silvia M, Manasa R, Sahana Iyer & Vaishali Vijaykumar)


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