Friday, August 7, 2009


This building is somewhat of an oddity in Chennai's landscape. Where most of its predecessors and even contemporaries favoured the Indo-Saracenic style - and the red-brick exteriors which somehow seem synonymous with that style - the architect of this building, N.Grayson, opted for an adaptation of the Dravidian style. It is possible that Grayson, being a 'company architect', working for the Madras & Southern Mahratta Railway, was not influenced by the 'city architects' and chose to stick closer to his employer's requirements, rather than trying to blend with the city's other grand buildings. Samynada Pillai, the contractor, went with that design, but it took nine years and over Rs.30 lakhs before the building was inaugurated on December 11, 1922.

Today, this building houses the headquarters of the Southern Railways - the first railway zone to be formed on the Indian Railways, it was created by fusing together three large railway systems. The Madras & Southern Mahratta Railway, the Mysore State Railway and the South Indian Railway were the biggies operating railway lines in the south. With their integration, Madras became the headquarters of the Southern Railways and chose this building as its abode.

The central bay is flanked by two rectangular wings, both of which are arranged around a lush courtyard. Though built as office space, the building has large windows: long ago, those windows allowed the sea breeze to waft through, reaching the courtyard from the front and then going out through the wing opposite. I am not sure if modern airconditioning has shut all those windows down, making the building much less airy than it used to be!


chorinchath said...

The word Headquarters,is used as headquarter by many in different parts of the country !

Shantaram said...

@ Narayanan: Hmmm... maybe it comes from saying "Give no quarter!" too often ;)