1881 – Post & Telegraph Offices, Madras, India

Architect: Robert Fellowes Chisholm


“The new combined post and telegraph office, Madras, covers a considerable area of ground. It is 352ft long, and l62ft. broad, open on the east, south, and north sides. With the exception of the central hall, the building is in three stories. The ground-floor, devoted to servants, stores, kitchens, etc. ; the first floor to office accommodation ; and the third floor, over the wings, to residences. The only building materials available in Madras are a hard gneiss and red brick with terra-cotta. As neither the red brick nor the gneiss are good in colour, all architectural effect, when plaster is discarded, must be obtained by the masting of the light and shadow, and the flicker of tracery. The horizontal bands will be in glazed terra-cotta of intricate pattern, but low in tone, so as not to kill the gneiss dressings. The style may be termed “Hindu Saracenic” as regards details, and although adaptations of specimens widely separated geographically, great earn has been taken to preserve artistic unity in the whole design. The high-pitched roofs and dormers are in the Travancorean palatial style ; but below the eaves of the roof all work apparently of wood (and really of wood in the original style) has been changed to stone, as sanctioned in the very beautiful example at Beejapoor, which meets with universal admiration, and from the study of which the projecting canopiea have been designed.

The arches, columns, and all other details are in cut stone, in the Ahmedabad style of art. The lighter stonework forms a pleasing and legitimate link with the wooden dormers above. Few architects who have not actually practised it, can imagine the difficulty of dealing with deep loggia all round a building when circumstances compel the roof o be shown. The simple and general way of overcoming the difficulty, is to make the roof of the verandahs flat, and to pitch the main roof. The result is eminently suggestive of a Swiss chalet surrounded by a cage of Gothic, Classic, or whatever it may be ; the style never appears to extend (and does not actually do so in many cases) deeper into the buildings than the outer skin or cage. Solutions to other problems connected with building in India have been attempted, but these are not likely to interest the general reader. The estimated cost is about 6 lacs of rupees, about £60,000, exclusive of internal fitting.” Published in The Building News, November 18 1881.