Remembering S.L. Chitale

Revered for his architecture and commitment to social causes, the architect leaves behind a rare legacy, says Durganand Balsavar

June 04, 2019 11:20 am | Updated 11:20 am IST

A respected architect, social philanthropist and planner, Srikrishna Laxman Chitale passed away on May 20, 2019. Son of legendary architect Padma Shri L.M. Chitale, he inherited the firm Chitale & Son (established in 1932), perhaps the oldest architectural practice in India. S.L. Chitale continued the practice after the demise of L.M. Chitale in 1960 and was partnered by his wife, and son Kapil Chitale.

The firm’s prestigious projects include the residence of former President S. Radhakrishnan, the LIC building on Mount Road, several university campuses, industrial projects, banks, townships, schools and residences. Chitale is also known for mentoring several architects at his design office in Dhun Buildings, Chennai.

Design philosophy

Deeply influenced by the freedom struggle of 1947, Chitale believed in simplicity. Each project was pragmatic and utilitarian, and responded to functional needs, site context, and was equipped with ample natural light and ventilation.

The Kothari building in Chennai reflects the architect’s concern for sustainability and climatic response, several decades before it became a mantra for climate change.

An architect of inner convictions, he combined a stoic commitment to the client’s needs with calm restraint and poise, and attended work till the very last.

In a recent book on Indian architecture, authors Dr. Peter Scriver and Amit Srivastava attribute a pioneering role to Chitale in designing a wide diversity of buildings, which have been emulated over the last five decades across the country.

The Srinivasa Auditorium at Venkateshwara University, Tirupati, is an expression of the architect’s rare ability to evolve new structural forms to address contemporary challenges. The saddle-shaped, hyperbolic paraboloid shell structure is unique to Indian architecture, and the colossal auditorium (50m long), can accommodate over 1,400 people.

For society

Conscious of his social responsibilities, Chitale was instrumental in the revival of water bodies and temple tanks in Chennai. He was respected for his social work and played a significant role in establishing hospitals and child welfare centres, including the Kanchi Kamakoti Child’s Trust Hospital.

His work in the polio-immunization programme of the Rotary Club of Madras was well-received. As Chair of the Indian Institute of Architects, TN Chapter, he is remembered for his valuable contributions.

Revered for his architecture and commitment to social amelioration, architect S.L. Chitale leaves behind a rare legacy.

The writer is an architect and academician

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