Jaina-Jaipuri styled YMCA building (left), built in 1899 under British patronage, is a contrast to the LIC building (right), a testament to the grand French-inspired Art Deco architecture that marked Chennai’s modernity in 1950s. Photo by: Rahulnath
Chennai’s architectural tapestry has a complex and eclectic past. The city’s many landmarks are the result of a confluence of diverse architectural styles, most notably Indo-Saracenic structures and Art Deco facades, inspired by a rich legacy of international trade and cultural exchange.
Its most lasting heritage monuments today are largely colonial, bearing the blueprint of years of British reign. Even amidst the new-world commercial bustle, these structures are unmistakable: a fabulous combination of the old-world charm and now almost rusty, vintage typography, seen in such majestic establishments as the Madras High Court and the HSBC holding in Rajaji Salai.
On a quiet Sunday morning, a photographer steps out for a casual jaunt across Mount Road and Parry’s Corner, chronicling nostalgic dispatches from an ever-evolving cityscape.
Built in Indo-Saracenic style in the 1890s, the Madras High Court is one of largest judicial buildings in the world. Clad in red brickwork and granite, the mighty structure is embellished with minarets, mini-towers and domes. The High Court building boasts of having survived the horrors of both the World Wars and stands out amidst a neighbourhood of seemingly progressive architecture.
The Chennai Metropolitan Magistrate Criminal Court in Georgetown—next to the SBI Main Office and the Chennai GPO—is a unique British structure from the late 19th century that borrowed Mughal-style paintings to embellish this triple-storeyed heritage building.
Further down the road, stands the red-bricked General Post Office building in Georgetown, constructed in 1884. The GPO—set up by the Madras Governor Sir Archibald Campbell—to merge post and telegraphic departments, sports a Travancore-style roof with a Victorian Gothic-Colonial interpretation of Saracenic styles exhibited in its window designs.
A holding of establishments down the road from the Madras High Court to Parry’s Corner flaunts some old school typography that businesses continue to use amidst new age designing.
The Hot Chips Restaurant at Parry’s Corner—a well-renowned name across Chennai for the trusty palette of South Indian snacks it offers—dazzles the city’s forgotten charm with nostalgic fonts on a rusty board.
A man walks past Sri Balaji Woodlands Hotel in Parry’s—a branch of one of the oldest, most sought-after eateries in Chennai serving hearty Udupi cuisine.
The iconic Rajaji Salai building on Beach Road—a classic example of colonial bank architecture of the early 1920s—stands out from rest of the structures on the street. Earlier known as the Mercantile Bank Building, HSBC acquired it in 1959 and retained its old architecture.