Something new for the New Year

NEW DELHI, DEC. 22. Here's something new for the New Year. Barely a stone's throw from Parliament is coming up the grand new Parliament Library, with the construction team busy giving the finishing touches these days.

Set to open early in the New Year, the central function of the new complex is a library for Members of Parliament -- symbolically a place of enlightenment. The structure will also house committee rooms, a VIP lobby, a museum and a state-of-the-art auditorium to seat 1,100 people.

Centrally airconditioned, the walls and ceilings of the four-storey complex -- two basements and two superstructures -- have been acoustically treated to make it soundproof. To create a distinctive atmosphere matching its utility, varied materials and colours -- red and white sandstone, marble, wood, glass and steel -- have been blended in each room.

The design -- "a blend of utility and symbolism" -- reflects an attempt to infuse elements of Indian democratic values, says the architect, Delhi's very own Mr. Raj Rewal. Though the idea was to raise a structure merging with Lutyens' Delhi, a digression of style in the sense of breaking away from the imperialistic style, which is imposing, has been attempted. For instance, the placement of open courtyards around the central structure, besides being important features of design for Delhi's climate, is to express democratic, liberal values.

To symbolise liberty of speech and expression, an amphitheatre has been built in the first court. Water, the main element of the third courtyard, is used to convey equality of status and opportunity, a core value of the Indian Constitution.

The complex, as Mr. Rewal puts it, is a fusion of modern architecture with Indian roots. It combines high-tech techniques such as domes shaped with glass bricks along with hand-crafted stones. The focal dome of glass and steel, for instance, looks down on a marble floor designed like a ``rangoli''.

The structure, the architect asserts, does not try to compete with Parliament. Instead, it ``melts with it''. Smaller than Parliament House -- a pre-requisite for the design -- it seeks to display a sense of affinity with it.