Chennai has a rich architectural inheritance which reflects its historical relationships with South-east Asia, the Portuguese, French, Danish, and of course the British. In the absence of a strong legislation and an authoritative body to oversee conservation, heritage sites and buildings in Chennai could soon become the stuff of legends. Unfortunately, rapid unplanned urbanisation has ridden roughshod over the architecture of the city, and even current residents of some heritage buildings are not aware of their historic significance. Posters, hoardings, encroachments, garbage dumps, and general decay render some of these past treasures unrecognisable. With the builders, architects and original inhabitants of these buildings long gone, there is a need for residents to take action to save the memories of our history.

Transparent Chennai is working hard to place the list of nearly 600 buildings listed in the report of the High Court-appointed Padmanabhan Committee on the map. Digitally representing built heritage includes collecting information about the buildings and their architects that is maintained in files by different individuals and organisations, collating the stories that surround the buildings from their past creation to the current use. The Transparent Chennai team searches for the buildings by their old names, compare them to local residents’ versions, and identify them using a brief description of their current state and old photographs. Using GPS units to mark the physical locations of these buildings, some of which have already quietly disappeared, we have already created an interactive heritage layer, which shows locations and information about heritage buildings all around this city. Transparent Chennai hopes that a public database of these precious buildings will help to strengthen citizen advocacy for better conservation of our heritage.

Key Research

Issue briefs

Preview of Transparent Chennai’s heritage layer covered in the press!

Related Blogs More >>
April 1, 2013 by

Transparent Chennai has mapped over 400 out of the 467 heritage building listed in the Padmanabhan Committee report and in our continuing effort to identify and map the remaining 60 odd heritage structures in the city Roshan Toshniwal and I … Continue reading

March 1, 2013

Job Charnock was born in 1630 in Lancashire. He worked for a private trading company between 1650 and 1653 before joining the East India Company in January 1658. His first post was as an administrator at Cossimbazar on the river … Continue reading

July 9, 2012

Age old architecture, the influence of British and Portuguese styles, wooden structures that seemed to hide a hundred secrets and streets so narrow and intertwined that we felt we had moved to another time. My first heritage mapping experience left … Continue reading

Press Events More >>
March 8, 2013

Technology has helped to create awareness and save precious information. Our work on mapping the heritage of the city is a small step towards promoting the richness of the city’s architecture and culture. The process of mapping these sites was … Continue reading

March 8, 2013

On May 25, 2012, Transparent Chennai launched its newest layer: the heritage layer, with a talk by Sriram Venkatakrishnan, historian and convenor of INTACH’s Chennai chapter.  Transparent Chennai is working hard to place heritage on the map, and students from … Continue reading