Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A look at Narendra Modi's grand new office Swarnim Sankul-IVishal Dutta , ET


A look at Narendra Modi's grand new office Swarnim Sankul-I

Built at a cost of Rs 150 crore and spread across 35,000 sq ft, the four-storey building has been unofficially dubbed as “North Block”.
Built at a cost of Rs 150 crore and spread across 35,000 sq ft, the four-storey building has been unofficially dubbed as “North Block”.
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, the man viewed as a serious contender for the prime minister's post, moved into a new office in the capital Gandhinagar. Built at a cost of Rs 150 crore and spread across 35,000 sq ft, the four-storey building has been unofficially dubbed as "North Block", not in the least because of Modi's prime ministerial ambitions.

Officially, it is called Swarnim Sankul-I, one of the twin buildings that dot each side of the Gujarat Assembly. Pictures of the media-savvy politician seated before a huge map of Gujarat embossed on the wall have already been splashed across the media. What about the rest of the building?

At first glance, the new office, painted in a uniform cream colour, holds few surprises. Even from outside, it is clear that great care has been taken to give it a global corporate look. But it is also rooted in the Indian backdrop — it faces the north, considered auspicious according to Vastu Shastra.

A box-like exterior houses Modi's office on the third floor, which leads to a sprawling balcony that offers a direct view of the newly built Mahatma Mandir, a convention centre and memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi.

A 'Corporate' Office

Visitors are greeted with customary security checks. Soon after, one hits a wide passage that leads directly to a round reception table in wood on the ground floor lobby. Again, one gets the feeling that one is in a corporate office rather than a sarkari one. Here, visitors come across a second layer of security personnel. Get used to the security: there are checks on every floor. Look up to see a ceiling presenting an Oculus.

On the right of the ground floor are four metallic lifts that serve all floors. A gamut of awards won by the Gujarat government is displayed in glass and wooden cupboards next to the lifts. The ground floor also boasts an auditorium, two committee halls and a conference hall named after the four major rivers of Gujarat: Sabarmati, Tapi, Mahi and Narmada. The cabinet meeting hall has been named Girnar Khand, a tribute to the home of the Asiatic lions.

The lobbies on all floors are adorned with a French window, a top-down casement that lets in sunlight. This saves electricity, a design intervention made at the insistence of Modi. Indeed, Modi seems to have closely supervised the construction.

"The CM was very particular about the quality of the building," says Bimal Patel, one of the architects based in Ahmedabad, who is currently director of Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) University, adding that the CM believed that a good quality building says a lot about the capability of an organisation. Not surprisingly, it is also equipped with a rainwater-harvesting system.

All lobbies sport 49-inch LCD television sets. They are spacious, a marked departure from the congested corridors of the earlier building. Two mediumsized lawns adorn the backyard and serve as a link to the Assembly. A raft of paintings doll up the walls aesthetically.

Cabinet ministers' offices on the second and fourth floors stand out for their space management. Each office sports a huge chamber with an ante-chamber and each ministerial enclave holds a couple of cubicles for staff along with a small conference room and waiting room. The entire building can accommodate 1,000 employees.

The main entrance apart, there is a special access point for Modi's convoy of cars. This point is covered in concrete roofing and a front wall. Needless to say, this area is cordoned off. This has led to talks that Modi's office is bulletproof. Officials denied this. But the building is under constant CCTV surveillance.

Need of the Hour

Justifying the need for a new office, Nitin Patel, a cabinet minister (finance minister) and spokesperson of Gujarat government, whose office is beside Modi's, says the government long felt the need for a better manageable work area. Gujarat has been growing not just in terms of investment but population — to over 6.5 crore from 3 crore in past 30 years — too, according to him. So has the workload, the number of visitors from overseas and officials, he says.

One of the building's designers is Ahmedabad-based architect Bimal Patel (it has been built by Larsen & Toubro under a roads and building department project). Patel, known for designing the Gujarat High Court and Amul dairy building, says one key challenge during construction was blending the new and old buildings functionally and symbolically.

In the works is Swarnim-II on the other side of the Assembly. That building, modelled on New Delhi's secretariat, would be Modi's 'South Block'. Even if his push for the top job in the country is thwarted, Modi would still boast a grand office. 

Source : Vishal Dutta , ET

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