A starchitect’s design for an Indian state’s new capitol looks a lot like an idli maker

A matter of taste.
A matter of taste.
Image: Left: Screenshot/@PrajaRajadhani video. Right: Screenshot/Amazon
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The Indian state of Andhra Pradesh has grand plans for its new capital, Amaravati. They include an enormous amount of land, a master plan shaped by Singapore, and a design ethos that draws on monumental cities from its cultural past, real and imagined.

Now, Amaravati might also have a state assembly building that looks rather a lot like a gigantic idli steamer, courtesy the firm of British starchitect Norman Foster.

The people’s choice?
The people’s choice?
Image: Screenshot/@PrajaRajadhani video

The southern state presently shares its former capital—Hyderabad—with the new state of Telangana, created from Andhra Pradesh in 2014. But Hyderabad will eventually be Telangana’s capital alone.

The New Indian Express newspaper reported in January that Norman Foster’s firm, Foster + Partners, was invited to design the new capital. On Dec. 17, the state’s chief minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu, tweeted that after “due deliberation and consideration” the firm’s white design was the one proposed for the state legislative assembly. Earlier this month, another Twitter account, set up for the capital itself, had posted a model of the design. The firm didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Soon after the news, an Indian architect posted an image of the design juxtaposed next to a stainless-steel idli maker—the kind used to steam idlis for breakfast in countless households across southern India—on an architecture-focused Facebook group. While some made fun of the resemblance—”How on earth will they cook in this?”—others praised the design for not being derivative of colonial-era architecture. “Inspiration can come from any thing whether An idli stand or samosa,” said another poster.

A video tweeted by the chief minister shows the idli-steamer appearance is more prominent when the building is seen from above, while from ground level it’s not that obvious. The interiors of the building are rather attractive, actually, with facades that appear ribbed, and natural light pouring in from a skylight in the building’s towering spike.

The selection appears to have had at least some public input. In October, several designs were displayed on a state government Facebook page, drawing hundreds of comments. In that rendering, the building is shown head on and in a more coppery hue, looking rather like a spaceship, or—some said—a Buddhist stupa. A bigger complaint, at the time, was the feeling among some that the designs presented didn’t seem in keeping with the initial plan to build something drawing on ancient heritage, that wouldn’t look out of place in an epic Telugu blockbuster.