The proposed memorial for Jayalalithaa, a soaring, winged structure on the Marina, marks a significant shift in the State government’s architectural preference and style.

The Tamil Nadu government’s design for the proposed memorial for former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa marks a radical change in official architecture from neo-Dravidian to new age abstraction.
The Tamil Nadu government’s design for the proposed memorial for former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa marks a radical change in official architecture from neo-Dravidian to new age abstraction.

To those who were expecting yet another monument in Dravidian style with eternally burning lamps and other sacred symbols, the proposed memorial appears bare, radical yet exuberant.

Unlike the earlier structures, the new architecture neither signifies any strong political position nor engages with Tamil identity politics. However, if the question is whether the proposed memorial paves the way for a new breed of State-sponsored architecture that is evocative and responsible, the answer clearly is no. There may be an optical difference between the proposed memorial and the others that preceded it, but the excessiveness, sense of deification and surfeit of myth making narratives seem to persist.

How State structures should be built and what they should signify are consciously decided and politically motivated. Architecture is the party’s billboard, and it can be best witnessed in Chennai.