Amaravati: A City on the Anvil
Though the Amaravati Master Plan as it was envisioned by Fosters +Partners might not be brought to fruition with the new ruling that Andhra Pradesh would have three capitals—Amaravati as the legislative capital, Kurnool in Rayalaseema as the judicial capital with the high court, and Visakhapatnam in Uttar Andhra as the administrative capital, SCALE puts the focus on this design, that had a clearly defined green spine inspired by New York’s Central Park.
In 2017, it was decided that the new administrative capital of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, would be Amaravati. This was born following the redefinition of state boundaries between Andhra Pradesh and the newly created state of Telangana.
Situated on the banks of the River Krishna, the new city is strategically positioned to benefit from an abundant supply of freshwater, and was designed to be one of the most sustainable cities in the world.
Foster + Partners had designed the masterplan for the new government complex, which forms the central focus of the 217-square-kilometer city. The project includes the design of two key buildings: the legislature assembly and the high court complex, along with several secretariat buildings, where the offices of state administration are located.
The city was designed to the highest standards of sustainability, with the latest technologies that are currently being developed in India, such as photovoltaics. The transportation strategy included electric vehicles, water taxis, and dedicated cycle routes, along with shaded streets and squares that would encourage people to walk through the city.
Travelling south from the river’s edge, there is a mixed-use quarter structured around 13 urban plazas, signifying the 13 state districts in Andhra Pradesh. At the centre of the green spine sits the legislative assembly building, a democratic and cultural symbol for the people of Andhra Pradesh.
The legislative assembly building sits within a large freshwater lake and is framed by the secretariat and cultural buildings. Based on Vaastu principles, its square plan has the public entrance from the north and the ministers’ entry from the east. The assembly chamber – where the ministerial debates are held – is placed towards the southwest corner of the building, which is considered the most auspicious. The assembly chamber and council hall are in the southwest and northeast corners respectively, with administrative offices in the northwest. Closely aligned with the ideals of Vaastu, the centre is designed to be a void, akin to a courtyard. Publicly accessible for most of the year, it is a gathering space for the public and their elected representatives. A spiral ramp takes people up to the cultural museum and the viewing gallery from where they can experience democracy in action. The building is sheltered by a 250-meter-high conical roof with a wide overhanging canopy that provides shade while also allowing for cooling breezes to blow through the building.
The high court complex is located off the central axis, with its stepped roof form inspired by India’s ancient stupas. The deep overhangs of the roof provide shade while also allowing the building to be naturally ventilated. Influenced by the traditional temple arrangement, the plan of the building is formed of alternating concentric layers of rooms and circulation spaces. The most publicly accessible parts, the administrative offices and the lower courts, are located on the outer edges of the building, while the inner areas are reserved for the Chief Justice’s court and private chambers. The building has a courtyard and a roof garden, that allows the greenery to penetrate the interior spaces.
Chandrababu Naidu, recognized as the creator of modern Hyderabad, who became the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh after the 2014 elections chose a greenfield spot on the banks of the River Krishna and named the place Amaravati after an old Buddhist site by that name located merely 60km away. Naidu, being a keen student of history, wanted a Buddhist name for a specific reason. The new state was in the eastern springboard of India, overlooked Singapore on the south-east, and on the route to Japan. The name, he averred, would attract the Buddhists and investors from the Far East.
He made the capital on the river bank just about 60km from where it met the Bay of Bengal. Thus, the new riverfront capital took away eminently cultivable land from farmers, and though the landowners were promised a share in the new developments, the methods of acquiring the land were also questioned.
With all these politics hanging in the air, Amaravati, as Fosters + Partners envisioned it, will remain a dream unfulfilled. But from the images we now see of the plan, if realized, Amravati would indeed have been a paradise on earth.