From empty shell to vibrant public space

An arresting, oval-shaped building with a granite-and-metal façade, spread over several acres of prime land in the heart of Chennai. The Hindu's giant neighbour across Anna Salai, directly facing Kasturi Buildings, our newspaper's historic, elegant headquarters. Designed by a German architect. Meant to house the Tamil Nadu Assembly and Secretariat, as envisioned by the erstwhile DMK government. Inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on March 13, 2010 even before construction was completed. Now locked up and in disuse after the newly elected AIADMK government decided to move the Assembly and Secretariat back to Fort St. George.

The Hindu believes that even while an enquiry commission probes the alleged irregularities relating to its construction, the building should be put to good use, else it risks falling into disrepair. That means close to Rs 500 crore of taxpayer money, and possibly more, will go down the drain.

So here's a challenge to our readers: send us your ideas on the best use that this sprawling complex in the heart of Chennai can be put to. Our only stipulation is that it must be a public space – accessible to, and used by, the public of our great city. The complex was originally built to be used by politicians and bureaucrats. An opportunity has now arisen for ordinary citizens to claim this space as their own.

Let your imagination wander and send in your suggestions by letter or email. The Hindu will publish the most reasoned and thoughtful ideas and eventually hand over to the Government of Tamil Nadu the three best proposals, as adjudicated by a special panel of experts to be named by us shortly.

To help readers reflect on the challenge and come up with concrete suggestions, we have provided a brief but specific description of the complex as it stands, with a site plan prepared under the supervision of The Hindu's Deputy Editor Dr. A. Srivathsan, a professional architect. Readers are also invited to go to the website of the German architects, gmp (von Gerkan, Marg und Partner Architects) http://www.gmp-architekten.de/en/projects.html, click on the section ‘Alphabetical', and then click on the letter ‘T' to enter the slide show, ‘Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly Complex,' which presents detailed drawings and views of the exterior and interior of the buildings and a site plan.

Readers can continue to email ideas to ourbuilding@thehindu.co.in or write in to Project ‘Our Building,' The Hindu , Kasturi Buildings, 859 & 860 Anna Salai, Chennai 600002.