by Narayan Moorthy Apr 24, 2020
In a recent ceremony, the Indian Prime Minister, laid the foundation stone for the country’s new parliament building in New Delhi. The new Sansad Bhawan or Parliament building is part of the government’s Central Vista project, which undertakes the redevelopment of government buildings on the four-kilometre stretch from the Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential Estate) to the India Gate in the capital. The bid to design this ambitious project was won by Gujarat-based HCP Design, Planning and Management Pvt. Ltd., which is led by architect Bimal Patel. The construction will be carried out by Tata Projects Limited.
This project has sparked criticism since its announcement, and the foundation stone was laid despite the Supreme Court’s order to halt the construction until it decides on a bunch of petitions that challenge the redevelopment plan.
The new Parliament building, to be spread over 64,500 sqm, will be located adjacent to the existing structure. Upon completion of the new building, the present building, a Grade I heritage structure, is to be retrofitted and refurbished as per heritage conservation standards, and the two are planned to be used in conjunction. “The architectural strategy is to harmonise the two buildings such that they work in conjunction,” says Patel. This strategy for heritage conservation and retrofitting is planned to be implemented throughout the development of the Central Vista.
The triangular-shaped building’s architecture and aesthetics have been designed to take reference from the present Parliament building, other buildings of the Central Vista, and the classical, folk and tribal arts and crafts of India. “The elevation is designed taking references from the façade of the present building in architectural language as well as materiality. The building will use red and white sandstones for exterior cladding, similar to the present parliament building and other historic buildings in the Central Vista,” adds Patel. The interiors of both Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian parliament) and Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian parliament) are to derive references from the National Bird (peacock) and National Flower (lotus), respectively, with further references from the National Tree(Banyan tree). The National Emblem is to crown the new Parliament building.
The new building is to house larger Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha halls, with capacities of 888 seats for the former and 384 seats for the latter. Based on the norms of the Delimitation Commission of India, the current number of 545 Lok Sabha seats has remained unaltered since 1971 census and is to be reconstituted. Presently, each member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha represents more than 2.5 million citizens of the country, which in comparison to parliaments across the world is a very high number. The new building is to accommodate this expanded seating capacity after the expected increase after 2026. The Lok Sabha Hall will also have an additional capacity, up to 1272 seats, to host joint sessions.
The halls for two houses of the parliament have been designed keeping in mind the importance of acoustics using the aide of design and digital intelligence. Along with necessary facilities like committee rooms, major offices of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, Lok Sabha Secretariat and Rajya Sabha Secretariat, and appropriate dining facilities, the Parliament building will also include publicly accessible museum-grade galleries and exhibits. The central Constitution Hall and Gallery will showcase the Constitution of India and other artefacts of India’s heritage, symbolically and physically putting people at the heart of Indian democracy.
The building is to house the necessary office spaces, with VVIP access at the subterranean level, and high-grade security measures with provisions for emergency evacuation in case of calamity. Independent entrances have been planned for the President and the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, and the Members of Parliament with two separate entrances for the public.
A central courtyard has been designed to provide for an open meeting space for members of both houses with an adjoining café. “The design of the new Parliament building will be reinforced by state-of-the-art infrastructure and technology to assist the parliament’s functions. Provisions in the furniture will be made for smart displays and biometrics for ease of voting with intuitive and graphical interface; digital language interpretation and recording infrastructure to produce real-time metadata; programmable microphones that put the control of managing the house with the speaker,” shares Patel.
Much speculation and debates surround the core of this redevelopment - its role in a democratic country, the response to the existing heritage and the defining or redefining the identity of a new India.
Read more on the Central Vista debate here: