Clutter-free and aesthetic walking spaces are an important aspect of urban design. By redesigning the promenade along the Marina beach front, the Corporation of Chennai has taken a step in the right direction. Two years since it went on stream, the project is nearing completion. “Everything has been done. It is time for Nature to take over and make the lawns verdant,” says K. Raghuraman, the landscape architect who has given the promenade its unique contours and character (K. Raghuraman Landscape Architects has been engaged in the design of 10 other beach promenades around the coasts of South India).
The promenade along the Marina beachfront veers from the widely followed straight-line design — resembling small squiggles in a hand-drawn line, it possesses a meandering quality. Comprising 14 sections that vary significantly from one another, the walkway is as low-lying as is necessary to enjoy a clear view of the beach from the road. Differentiation of sections did not lead to breaks in the walkway. “It is a continuous walking stretch from Labour Statue to Kamaraj Statue,” says Raghuraman.
An element of drama is attached to the design — each section has a small theatre-type gallery where visitors can sit and watch sloshing waves and the surging movement of people on the sands. “Over 1,000 people can be seated on these galleries.” One gallery is flanked by two semi-circular stainless-steel pergolas resting on wire-cut brick columns. The choice of natural stones and pillars was dictated by the nature of the buildings on the other side of Beach Road.
“The historical buildings on the road provided us guidelines for what we had to do,” says Raghuraman. “A promenade in the vicinity of structures redolent of history can’t be based on modern art. We have made it merge with the nearby buildings.”
Even the public toilets and other utilitarian structures, designed by Messrs Rajendran & Associates, contribute to the architectural character of the promenade. “Great results could be achieved because of excellent rapport among the various groups on the job,” says Raghuraman. “The Corporation engineers have done a tremendous job. From the Commissioner to the man on the field, the Corporation’s involvement was total.” Raghuraman says the promenade is comparable to the best outside the country. “Earlier, we were asked to take a leaf out of Singapore’s experience in creating beautiful walkways; now, they can look to us.”