Open Corridor, a team of young Chennai-based architects, began work this Saturday on an ambitious two-fold task: acquainting their city’s denizens with little-known or usually inaccessible treasures of its rich architectural heritage, and helping them understand how important design is to a community.
The scene of their debut was a corridor of buildings flanking the iconic Marina esplanade, all magnificent examples of the Indo-Saracenic style–a confluence of Indian, Indo-Islamic and Victorian traditions. Around three dozen young men and women, mostly students of architecture, joined them for a two-and-a-half-hour-long exploration of Presidency College, the Public Works Department building, Chepauk Palace and the Senate House.
Normally, it isn’t always easy to gain access to these buildings. And that “in a gist, is what Open Corridor is about. It’s about opening up spaces, buildings, places of interest, any place which could even become a nice venue or a public space, to the people,” says Triple O Studio co-founder Tahaer Zoyab, an architect who guides Open Corridor.
“Our main agenda behind this is…creating a community that knows about architecture. We’re doing a lot more things like this–for example, (we’re) planning to make documentaries about architecture,” says Gopinath, who roped in his MEASI Academy of Architecture classmates to build the Open Corridor team.
The average age of the members? Around 22 or 23 years, Gopinath says.
As the walkers strolled through campus roads and narrow alleys on Saturday, they dispersed and coalesced with rhythmic regularity around the tour narrator, Gokul. All the while, their fingers tapped away at camera buttons and cellphone screens.
The tour was full of visual treats: intricate overhanging balconies called jharokhas, ionic columns, octagonal domes, and stately stained-glass windows bathing rooms and staircases in soft light.
The impression of a journey back in time was interrupted only by the occasional anachronism–a modern lamppost here, a run-down jeep there. The din of the beach and its boulevard were reduced to a distant hum.
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