An architectural tour around Chennai is often dominated by the city’s glorious landmarks from the colonial period and the magnificent Dravidian heritage of ancient India. Although oft over-shadowed by the greatness of our forefathers, the contemporary architecture of Chennai has also made some great strides. In its evolution from Madras to Chennai, this ever buzzing city has imbibed several architectural forms in its journey over decades. Chennai is a myriad mix of heritage structures and state-of-the-art buildings, with every period in its history revealing a new style of construction. Here are some of Chennai’s best modern-day buildings that deserve your attention. Take a look.

1. ITC Grand Chola

With rooms of spectacular opulence, the ITC Grand Chola, Chennai is amongst India’s most popular luxury hotels. This project was completed in 2012 and was designed by SRSS Architects, a Singapore-based architectural firm, Larsen & Toubro, and the Mumbai-based Sterling Engineering Consultancy Services. Built as a tribute to the architectural achievements of Tamil Nadu’s Chola dynasty, the hotel’s architecture is a fine blend of contemporary and Chola design methods. The hotel has four majestic entrances and is reinforced by 462 large pillars, most of which feature exquisite designs and delicate handiwork inspired by Chola architecture. Among other astonishing aspects of the hotel is the fact that it features over a million square feet of marble flooring shipped straight from Italy!

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ITC Grand Chola, Chennai ©

2. Gandhi Mandapam

Sandwiched between the huge and idyllic Guindy National Park and the tranquil leafy IIT Madras campus, the Gandhi Mandapam is one of Chennai’s largest open green spaces and well-known cultural venues. The Gandhi Mandapam is home to five memorials built in remembrance of different eminent personalities of India, with the biggest being the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, built in Dravidian architectural style. The Gandhi Memorial also served as the resting place for Gandhiji’s ashes before they were scattered into the sea.

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Gandhi Mandapam, Chennai ©

3. Valluvar Kottam

Constructed in 1976 as a memorial for the Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar, the Valluvar Kottam complex in Chennai is one of Tamil Nadu’s most celebrated buildings. The main element of the tall and showy Valluvar Kottam complex is its 39m-high structure that was built after the famous chariot belonging to Thiruvarur’s Thyagarajaswamy Temple. The well-crafted building is best-known for its bas-relief inscriptions of all 1,330 verses of Thirukkural, which is Thiruvalluvar’s greatest epic. To add to its beauty, the chariot structure overlooks an artificial pond and also has a life-size sculpture of the bard himself. Apart from the main structure, Valluvar Kottam also features a fully-fledged auditorium that can accommodate approximately 4,000 people.

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Valluvar Kottam at Chennai ©

4. LIC Building

The LIC Building in Chennai was India’s first skyscraper and also the country’s tallest building at the time of its completion in 1959. Standing at a height of 44m amidst the hurly-burly of Chennai’s Mount Road, the LIC Building is also famous for being the first building to have employed pile-foundations. With a floor area spread over 50,000 square feet, the building boasts the capacity to house more than 1,500 people. Although many other contemporary buildings have today overtaken the LIC Building in terms of height, it remains one of the city’s most prominent landmarks and one of Chennai’s key cultural identifiers.

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LIC, Chennai ©

5. TN Government Multi Super Specialty Hospital (Former Secretariat Complex)

Originally conceived as a replacement for the ancient Fort St. George as Tamil Nadu’s Secretariat Complex, this building is one of India’s biggest construction projects. After several delays, the site was finally chosen in 2007, and plans were drawn by the Berlin-based GMP architectural firm. Constructed at a cost of more than 1, 100 crores, the Secretariat building was inaugurated in 2010. However, after the 2011 Tamil Nadu election, the new government decided to convert the building into a state-of-the-art hospital at an additional cost of over Rs.110 crores. The multi-specialty hospital was inaugurated in 2014 with a capacity of over 400 beds. Despite its controversial and strained journey, this gigantic building is one of Tamil Nadu’s iconic architectural landmarks. It spreads over nearly a million square feet of floor area and also features a massive dome built at 25 crores!

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TN Government Multi Super Specialty Hospital ©

6. TIDEL Park

At the time of its construction, TIDEL Park was India’s largest ever IT Park and even one of Asia’s largest. Built for 338 crores, the TIDEL Park continues to be one of Tamil Nadu’s most advanced buildings in terms of technology and is home to dozens of IT and ITES companies. While today Chennai has become home to many other similar modern-era IT parks, what sets this complex apart is its sheer scale. Apart from its massive spread of nearly 1.3 million square feet, the complex also features a large auditorium with 650 seats, a fully-fledged 16,000 square feet canteen area, and an attached parking area for 4,000 two-wheelers and 1,200 cars!

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TIDEL Park, Chennai ©

7. Anna Centenary Library

The Anna Centenary Library in Chennai is not only one of the largest and most ultra-modern libraries in India. Constructed at 172 crores to mark the centenary of CN Annadurai, a former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, the library complex holds more than 1.2 million books. It also boasts some of the best accessibility technologies for the visually impaired including a fully-equipped Braille section with 1,500 books and 1,080 audiobooks. Apart from its collection of books, the library has also become a popular cultural venue thanks to its auditorium with a seating capacity for over 1,300 people and an amphitheater on its terrace that can seat 800 people.

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Anna Centenary Library ©

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, Tamil Nadu has the maximum number of green building projects in the country. The state has ranked first in the listing of eco-friendly buildings of India with 118 projects. The SIERRA ODC Building, Raintree Hotel, and Chennai’s Olympia Tech Park are other eco-conscious buildings that set a new benchmark for greater, greener contemporary Chennai.


Sowmya is an architectural journalist and writer. In this column, Sowmya takes you through stories on eco-architecture, biophilic design, and green buildings from across the globe.

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