The Central Vista Redevelopment is one of the most ambitious projects of the Government of India in recent times. The colossal project hopes to envisage the broad trajectory of the nation’s growth since its independence. The ₹20,000 crores-worth mega-project has commissioned state-of-the-art infrastructure for several sustainable government offices.
Located near the Raisina Hills in New Delhi and designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker, the Central Vista has acted as the seat of government ever since the national capital was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911. Almost a century ago, the then Duke of Connaught laid the foundation stone for the current parliament, on 12th February 1921.
The functions and operational needs of the Union Government have expanded over time. Therefore, several concerns around the lack of proper infrastructure have come to the fore.
On December 10, 2020, Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi laid the ceremonial foundation stone for the new Parliament Building. This marks the beginning of a “new era” that proudly represents a ‘Self-Reliant India’. The transformed Central Vista aims to showcase the diligence and assiduous nature of India’s path towards development before the world.
What does Vista mean, Architecturally?
Though the Oxford Dictionary describes “vista” simply as a beautiful view, architecturally the word has a very specific connotation. In urban design, a terminating vista is a building or monument that stands at the end or in the middle of a road, so that when one is looking up the street the view ends with the site. The vista could be at the end of a long, narrow street in a linear form, or at the end of a large plaza.
Central Vista: A Brief Historical Overview
Fondly called Lutyen’s Delhi, the administrative area of the new capital, which we refer to as the Central Vista today, was designed by Architects Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Herbert Baker. They intricately carved the elaborate masterpiece in Indo-Saracenic architectural style; the architecture also expressed the rich and diverse cultural traditions of colonial India.
Central Vista started with five buildings, a wide avenue and the India Gate. A third of the area was open to attract leisurely crowds throughout the year. The iconic 3 km long King’s Way (now Rajpath) grants the viewers a breathtaking vista towards the Viceroy’s House (now Rashtrapathi Bhavan) when viewed from the India Gate.
Lutyens ensured that no building in the complex would exceed the India Gate in height. This helped provide an unobstructed view of the Vista. So, to continue with that tradition, the new proposed master plan also abides by Lutyen’s principles and guarantees an uninterrupted panorama.
Why the Need for Revamping the Central Vista?
Committees have been set up several times since the early 1990s to redevelop the site as the Central Vista complex has failed to meet today’s demands. The present layout houses 22 ministries and 4000 employees inside the complex.
The other 29 ministries and the Prime Minister’s Enclave spread across the city. This results in traffic disruptions in the city whenever there is a Parliament meeting. Because of this inadequacy, the Government of India must spend INR 1000-2000 crores every year for rent.
Besides the constant deterioration of the quality of amenities, the century-old buildings inside the complex also pose structural safety concerns. Therefore it becomes indispensable to create an ensemble of new secretariats and parliamentary enclaves with advanced services and amenities inside the complex. This would enhance the coordination and proximity to improve the cooperation among the ministries. The Central Vista will thus play a prominent role in defining the ‘New India’.
Objectives of the Central Vista Redevelopment Project
Due to the rise in population, India gears up to expand its parliamentary membership in 2026.
Accommodating the needs of the current as well as the future parliament and consolidating all ministries under one roof is the primary objective of the project. Providing a Vice President’s and Prime Minister’s enclave within the parliamentary complex and rejuvenating the grand central vista forms another part of the proposal.
Project Execution and other Details
- The Delhi Master plan of 1962 delineates the Central vista complex to be a heritage precinct. A development project of large scale in such a sensitive heritage area requires multi-disciplinary urban studies in order to support the proposal.
- Thorough research about the appropriate requirements and programming at least for the next 25 years along with technical aspects such as MEP and environmental assessments conducted. Various sub-committees set up to report and finalise the evaluation process.
Design Brief and Final Terms
- After the computational part is over, a design brief prepared, defining the intent, scope and limitations of the project.
- Prior permissions and clearances sought from the Heritage Conservation Committee, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Airport Authority of India (AIA), Environmental Impact Agency besides fire services for safety, protection and conservation purposes.
- Financial agreements decided and finalised by the Finance ministry before publishing the Notice Inviting Tender,.
The Design Competition
- A two-stage design competition decides who wins the contract. The architect then works on a deadline to fully acknowledge the design brief and work out the cost estimates to present a detailed design plan.
- This intermediary design opened for peer review and public consultation. The concerned authorities scrutinise it again later.
- In the case of Delhi, the project proponent has to seek conceptual approval from Delhi Urban Arts Commission (DUAC) as well. The construction can, hence, officially begin.
How Will the Central Vista Look Like?
Ahmedabad based HCP Design, Planning and Management Pvt Ltd led by Ar. Bimal Patel won the design contract for the project in October 2019. Besides, the construction contract was bagged by Tata Projects Ltd in September 2020. The entire project could wrap up by the year 2024.
The Central Vista is ready for a complete makeover, as many of its primary structures will be either revamped, redeveloped or repurposed. State-of-the-art infrastructure is being incorporated into the project in cognizance of evolving functional needs. Also, a cautious attempt to follow and maintain the original Lutyens’ ‘Ridge to River Model’ principles for Delhi is on the cards.
The New Parliament Building
The new triangular-shaped Parliament building, inspired by the traditional Trimurthis, or Trinity, will take shape by 2022 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Indian independence. The theme of the design is to celebrate the cultural diversity of the country, through architectural elements such as fenestrations, overhangs and golden spire.
The project will also involve indigenous artisans and sculptors in the construction. The new parliament building will cover an area of 68,458 sq feet at the site adjacent to the current parliament building. The two buildings shall thus be used in conjunction to cater to the additional functions of the parliament.
The four-storey structure would accommodate 888 Lok Sabha seats, 384 Rajya Sabha seats, and 1224 seats for joint sessions. It would also house additional facilities such as the grand constitutional hall to showcase India’s democratic heritage, a lounge for MPs, libraries, committee rooms and dining areas.
Besides the main entrance, there is a second ceremonial entrance. A third entrance is meant exclusively for the Speaker of Lok Sabha and Chairman of Rajya Sabha. The structure’s design guarantees a durability period of about 150 years.
The Central Vista Avenue
The 3 km long boulevard from the India Gate and the Rashtrapathi Bhavan would be developed as a civic garden. Besides, it would also act as a stage for national rituals such as the Republic day parade. The avenue would be facelifted with quality landscaping, good lighting, seating, wide footpaths, vending areas, ample parking space and other such street amenities.
At points of congestion, pedestrian underpasses would be provided. A bio-diversity park of area 48 acres is under proposal near the Rashtrapathi Bhavan. It would act as a haven for a variety of endangered native flora and fauna species. Shapoorji Pallonji & Company Pvt Ltd received the tender for this part of the project.
The Common Central Secretariat
The four plots on either side of the Rajpath would witness the construction of the Common Central Secretariat. This block would house all the ministries, besides additional space for future expansion. It also provides separate chambers for all Members of the Parliament and provides offices for more than 30000 employees.
A total of 10 doughnut-shaped seven-storied office buildings would consolidate all the ministries in one place. The Central Secretariat is envisaged as a “Transit Oriented Development“ (TOD). An underground shuttle would connect all the buildings together, leading to the Delhi metro.
The National Museum, Indra Gandhi National Centre for Arts, the National Archives Annexe, and other buildings are marked for demolition. The aim is to provide space for the new secretariat. Artefacts present in the museums would be transferred to the North and South blocks. These would act as new public museums in the area.
Vice President and Prime Minister’s Enclave
The Vice President’s Enclave sits within a 15 Acres diamond-shaped plot to the north of Rajpath. It would consist of about 32 buildings of five-storey each to house the office and the residence. Similarly, to the south of the Rajpath would be the Prime Minister’s Enclave. The residence and office of the PM would be relocated here.
Here’s What the Architect of the Central Vista Project Has to Say About the Project
Although the project has been in the eye of the storm for quite some time, Padma Shri Awardee and Chief Designer of the project, Ar. Bimal Patel believes that such comments are due to lack of awareness. According to him, change is inevitable.
He assures the public that the design has been such that ‘it only strengthened the original intent of Lutyens and did not rupture the heritage’. He describes the crucial need to strengthen the Central Vista as an icon of Indian governance. The project seeks to restore & re-establish the order, symmetry and grandeur of the seat of the Indian government.
A Ray of Hope
As India proudly enters the 75th year of its independence, the refurbishment of the Central Vista would be a symbol of hope and progress. The project as a whole has tackled the long-neglected needs and aspirations for an enhanced facility for people’s representatives.
Ever since India got its freedom, our leaders have always struggled to achieve their dream of an accelerated, all-round growth. This has resulted in a constant evolution where change becomes inevitable. Thus it becomes important to embrace this transformation which leads the nation towards the path of prosperity.