By 2024, the Capital will wear a new look — a new Parliament, a new residence for the Prime Minister, an arboretum of rare plants, and a spruced up Rajpath. The buzz surrounding the Union government’s ambitious redevelopment project of the Central Vista is strong — just as it was in the early 20th century when architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker embarked on their journey of turning New Delhi into the Capital of colonial India.
The two friends-turned-foes, who designed the Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament House, India Gate, North and South Blocks, and the National Archives of India, planned to build administrative buildings on either side of the Central Vista avenue. The work, however, remained incomplete. Following Independence, these empty plots were turned into offices — many of them in shabby state and requiring urgent intervention.
Last September, the Union government announced the Central Vista redevelopment project, which was bagged by Gujarat-based HCP Design Planning and Management, headed by architect Dr Bimal Patel, who is also incharge of projects such as Kashi Vishwanath Corridor, expected to be ready by 2021, and the Mumbai Port.
The construction of the Parliament, then called the Legislative Building, began in 1921, a decade after work began on the Central Vista. Inaugurated in 1927, Baker himself added two floors to the structure in 1956 following demand for more space.
The Central Hall, where joint sessions take place twice a year, doubles up as the lounge, and the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are bursting at the seams. It’s because of these reasons that need for a new Parliament was felt.
Says Patel, “We identified the triangular plot next to the current Parliament where there is a reception office, some car parking, security arrangement… It’s essentially empty.” The new Parliament, being built on a triangular grid, will have a Lok Sabha hall, a Rajya Sabha hall, a lounge around the open-to-sky courtyard, a foyer with sculptures in the middle and various offices on the periphery. The height of the two buildings will be the same. There will be six entrances.
Patel says the seating arrangement in the halls will be in the traditional horseshoe design. The preferred option for Lok Sabha is to have two-people benches of generous size on which three can sit when there is joint session. While the Lok Sabha capacity will be over 900, it will go up to 1,300 during joint sessions.
The new Parliament will be equipped with a sophisticated acoustic design. It will also have high-tech software and hardware systems related to voting and audio-visual systems, and screens on the desk. There will also be chambers for MPs.
The building will also have a gilded spire, and each window inside will be different to “indicate the diversity of India”.
It will move from the current 7, Lok Kalyan Marg address to a plot closer to the Rashtrapati Bhawan. As of now, the PM’s residence is 2.8 km away. The PMO too will move from the Central Secretariat to near the PM’s new residence. Similarly, the Vice-President’s residence, which is about 1.7 km from the Rashtrapati Bhavan, will also move to a plot on the other side of the presidential palace. Patel says, “All the disruptive travel between home and office gets minimised once the PM and VP’s residences are moved here.”
All Union ministries and offices are to be moved to the Central Vista. For this, 10 “doughnut-shaped” identical buildings have been proposed on four tracts of government land between India Gate and the Rail Bhawan and Vayu Bhawan. The new plan will bring all the 51 ministries and offices, along with the National Archives, and a central conference centre together to form the new Central Secretariat.
“The brief was to make it modular, make 10 different type of offices related to 10 different levels of functioning to get maximum flexibility,” says Patel. While the buildings would have red sandstone facade, matching the existing ones in the Central Vista, the interior would be of glass and steel with a solar roof. Each building will have eight floors and a three-level car parking, but their height would be lower than that of the India Gate.
Inside, there will be a courtyard each with a garden in the centre, a cafe and an exhibition space. Each building will have two entrances.
This would involve connecting the Central Secretariat Metro station on the Yellow and Violet Line of the Delhi Metro to a “people mover” at the underground level. While the plan will be further discussed with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, the idea is to have a transportation system which people can use to access buildings as trains circle the secretariat at short intervals. From the stations, people would be able to use escalators to reach the arrival halls in the buildings.
After the ministries move out of the North Block and South Block, they will turned into museums and the National Museum will be moved in these buildings.
Another objective is to commemorate 75 years of Independence, for which an extension of the Central Vista from the ridge to the Yamuna is being considered.
Another plan on the table is to carve out the 48-acre forested area at the back of the President’s Estate and turn it into a national biodiversity arboretum. “This would also be (a part of) the President’s Estate, but it would be open to the public… So we could have something, essentially remaining a forest, but with glass houses where you create microclimates of sorts inside…,” says Patel.