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Woman power behind navy's new training centre

January 13, 2009 13:23 IST

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For 60-year-old Chandigarh-based architect Namita Singh, designing the structure for the Ezhimala naval academy, India's premier naval officers' training centre, was a challenging task. But the toil was worth it, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] commissioned the establishment on January 8.

"I feel quite elated and proud of myself and my team of engineers to be part of the nation's endeavour to build Asia's biggest academy at Ezhimala, as the entire design has been evolved considering the site's natural features," a beaming Namita Singh told PTI in an interview in Kannur, Kerala [Images].

Terming the work at the academy as "most complex", Namita Singh said she took up the challenging assignment a decade ago and "it essentially is a beautiful and dream site to work on".

The sprawling academy project, including a host of building complexes, roads and other trunk services like waterpipe laying, street lights, hospitals and Olympic [Images] standard swimming pool, were meticulously designed in such a manner that works and materials were suited to the humid and saline weather of the coastal belt, she said.

The imposing main building complex is located at a height so that it is visible in the entire area, she said.

Namita, who runs the Chandigarh-based Satnam Namita and Associates, was chosen through complex design tests by a panel appointed by the defence ministry and secured the job of designing the academy costing over Rs 720 crore.

The academy is surrounded by hills, backwaters and flanked by the Arabian Sea and spread over a 2,452 acres of land.

The task before Namita Singh was to design a building complex without disturbing the serene environment.

While the flora and fauna have been kept intact, a large area of forest cover is still left untouched, she said.

Namita Singh, a visiting professor with the Chandigarh College of Architecture in the early 1980s, prepared a model of the 2,452 acre land before designing various projects within the sprawling academy.

"Before commencing work, our team paid a private visit to Indonesia and Thailand to get first hand information about the design of modern buildings including five-star hotels in coastal cities in those nations," she said.

Aptly making use of materials like stones retrieved while digging, Namita Singh took into account the humid and salty moisture content along the coastal belt and used items like ceramic coated tiles and special paintings and metals resistant to corrosion.

"We used locally available granite and laterite building materials to prevent the main buildings from getting spoilt due to salty air blowing in from the sea. However, the use of costly items was limited to selected buildings, to ensure that the project cost did not rise beyond the estimated cost," she said.

Interestingly, various accommodations built on the hilly slope were planned in such a way that each house built on tier system had separate space for garden. Dedicated efforts were also made to ensure ventilation, thereby avoiding the need for going in for cost effective air-conditioners.

For Namita Singh, it could have been the proudest moment of her 38-year-long career as the Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sureesh Mehta specially mentioned her while lauding the efforts of various persons and agencies involved in developing the exceptional project.

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