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New Secretariat Building

Calcutta, India
New Secretariat Calcutta, 1949-54_Drawing by G. Nayak © Habib Rahman Archive
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New Secretariat Calcutta, 1949-54_Drawing by G. Nayak © Habib Rahman Archive
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The construction of the fourteen-story New Secretariat Building at Calcutta marked the beginning of high-raise construction in India. The building was designed by Habib Rahman and was planned according to the modern trend in designs of office buildings and architecture such as the United Nations Headquarters in New York and the Ministry of Education building in Rio de Janeiro.

Following Independence, new areas of administrative activity generated an enormous demand for office space. The programme for the New Secretariat called for maximizing floor space on a one-acre corner plot a kilometre away from the old Secretariat. In the absence of height and F.A.R. restrictions, the only constraint was the soil condition and high water-table, which hurled out the possibility of a basement for service-areas.

The Construction

The steel frame during construc­tion: Two fourteen-storied blocks of 20m x 80m and 20m x 40m respectively paced in L-shaped arrangement, were designed on a grid of 6.6m x 6.6m. the frame structure rests on 25m deep R.C. piles. Engineers on the job had no previous experience of designing elevators and services for such a tall building. The mail chutes, fire-fighting wet risers, and running of plumbing through central service shafts were all novelties introduced through this building. Both Architects and engineers had to learn from scratch, on site.