New central vista set to be expanded to Yamuna bank
The central vista is likely to be extended beyond the Rashtrapati Bhawan to the Mother Teresa Crescent in the west and from the India Gate to the banks of the river Yamuna in the east, according to new changes made to the plan to redevelop the landmark Lutyens neighbourhood that houses India’s legislative and executive power.
The central vista redevelopment plan includes a slew of changes to existing structures, with a new Parliament building and a common secretariat for all central government offices among the most prominent new features.
According to presentations made by Ahmedabad-based HCP Design – the agency selected to carry out the works -- a new triangular Parliament building will come up next to the existing complex, the North and South Block office complexes will be turned into national museums, the Indira Gandhi National Centre will be relocated, and the National Archives will be remodelled.
The Prime Minister’s residence will be shifted behind the existing South Block complex while the residence of the Vice President is proposed to be relocated behind North Block.
“Lutyens architecture was spectacular and there is no doubt about that. However, post-Independence the construction that took place in the vista didn’t have an inspiring vision behind it. There was no comprehensive planning. Today, the structures are incoherent, there’s no grand plans of buildings and precious land is used in an insufficient way,” chief architect of HCP Design, Planning & Management Private Limited, Bimal Patel, said.
Patel’s firm was among the four firms that had been shortlisted for the project by the Centre.
The sweeping redevelopment, which is being handled by the ministry of housing and urban affairs, is slated to complete a new Parliament by India’s 75th Independence Day in 2022, with the rest of the work scheduled to finish by 2024.
“We have seven main objectives to accomplish with the project that include modernising Parliament facilities, consolidating, rationalising, and synergising government functioning, providing adequate facilities for the Vice President and Prime Minister, refurbishing and better equipping the Central Vista avenue, strengthening cultural institutions in the vista, commemorating 75 years of independence and executing a large complex project such as this with ease,” Patel said.
To be sure, the plan is still a work in progress and the proposal could undergo several changes, he added.
On the proposed extended portion of the central vista, the government plans to construct a garden near the river Yamuna – a “New India garden” -- to install structures commemorating 75 years of India’s independence.
“Even Lutyens’s original plan was envisaged to extending the Vista from the Ridge to the river. Presently the vista is from Rashtrapati Bhawan up to India Gate. One of the things we were asked was to see a possibility where that could be done,” Patel said.
“We will also set up walking and cycling paths all the way up till the garden past the Purana Quila route,” he added.
The government plans to hold a design competition for selecting the structures that should be put up at the proposed garden, a senior government official said, asking not to be named.
In extending the vista towards the west, the plan also involves a national biodiversity arboretum on about 48 acres of land beyond Mother Teresa Crescent.
“If you look at the land beyond the Crescent, which is essentially forest area, we plan to carve out about 48 acres for a national biodiversity arboretum which will have glass houses inside that will house endangered plant species of India,” Patel said.
Among the major changes is converting the North and South Block offices, which at present house some of India’s key ministries such as home, defence, finance, as well as the Prime Minister’s Office, into national museums.
The central government ministries will be shifted to a common secretariat.
“These blocks will be converted into national museums. It is proposed to make South Block a museum showcasing India’s history up to 1857 and North Block can be a museum of India after 1857. These are just ideas right now,” Patel said, adding that the objective was to convey a shift in India’s political ethos.
“What comes to mind is the Louvre which was the palace of the king that was converted into a museum. These are grand symbols of authority which are being opened to people,” Patel added.
A total of 10 common secretariat buildings have been planned to serve as offices for about 70,000 central government employees.
“None of the new structures will be higher than the India gate. We have planned 10 symmetrical structures with modern offices. The plan is to also ensure they have courtyards in the centre for trees,” Patel said. “At present only 22 of 51 government ministries reside in the Vista,” he said.
The area around Rajpath is being referred as the Central Avenue. Among the plans to redevelop it include setting up civic amenities such as toilets, benches and organised parking.
“It has haphazard parking today, bad landscape, poor pathways and footpaths, it has ad-hoc vending spaces and inadequate facilities for national events and poor lighting...We will create pedestrian underpasses. One of the decisions was on whether to put either traffic below or the people below, in this case we thought that the traffic should stay on top, because some of the people who come from outside get to cross just once and get that one shot to view the great vista. You want to allow motorists to also have the same experience,” Patel said.
A plot of 15 acres has been identified by the Centre to relocate IGNCA near Jamnagar House.
“We will utilise IGNCA land for building the secretariat complex while IGNCA will be shifted. There is currently 15 acres of hutments at Jamnagar house which will be removed to make way for IGNCA. The idea is that this plot which is right across Hyderabad House will be a symmetric mirror image of the the building,” the government official said.
According to government officials, about 90 acres of prime land has been “wasted” due to encroachment by hutments. This land will be reclaimed utilised to construct new residences of the Vice President and the Prime Minister.
“For the PM, there are two plots behind South Block which has hutments and in that there will be PMO with a garden in front for functions etc connecting it to his residence so that it will be walking distance,” the official said.
The triangular complex proposed as the new Parliament Complex will be situated on plot inside the present complex. Contrary to his previous proposal of converting the old building into a museum, Patel said the plan now to utilize it for certain functions after going through remodeling and retrofitting. “We have gone through the old drawings and ancient copies of the old building while designing the new building...among one of the issues is a seating the MPs. One of the options we have narrowed on is two-people per bench seating arrangement where the central hall can seat 800 MPs and 1200 for a joint session,” Patel said.
The plan also includes building of chambers for all MPs.