It is one of the finest monuments in Chennai and a living example which shows the remarkable architectural skills of the famous architect of 19th century, Robert Fellowes Chisholm. The wonder of Chennai, the Senate house, located on the Madras University Campus, near Marina is a landmark in Chennai. The structure is a live example of the Indo-Saracenic style with a harmonious blend of Byzantine architectural features.
The Senate house has a central hall with corridors on the ground floor. The corridors stand on six massive pillars standing on either side. Also the four sky touching towers standing at each of the corners of the building gives it a dazzling look. The six porches, two on the eastern and western sides of the building and one each on the northern and southern side of the building further lend the structure a vintage look. There also are three segmental arch openings in each porch in the east, west and south of the porch. The roof is made of brick shell with lime mortar.
The senate house has a convocation hall, beautiful porticos, a parapet that surrounds these porticos, halls for meetings, a library etc. It had offices of the Vice Chancellor and the Registrar and the university departments of study and research earlier. The site has been ruled for almost 125 years by the senate house and it has been the venue of many functions and convocations were held in the central hall till 1965; later the venue was shifted to Centenary Convocation Auditorium. It was used for meetings of the senate, syndicate and academic departments of the university. The venue was a convention centre too, in the past, when there were not many modern facilities available. It also housed administrative offices of the University. The meetings of the senate, academic council and of the faculties were held in some of the smaller halls.
The halls were used as a meeting place of first elected Madras Legislative when it was convened in 1937. The Senate House was also the venue for Madras Music Academy in the first years of that institution. Though, the use of Senate house was limited to holding of the convocations and examinations, after the construction of new departmental library building and later on the centenary building, besides being used as classrooms for teaching foreign languages. After the constructions of the massive centenary auditorium in 1960 the convocations were held there after 1965.
Sadly, with as time passed by, this proud structure lost its old world charm for which it was, and still is popular. However, efforts have been made to restore its charm with help of renovation and in order to avoid any tampering with its original structure, the university is making earnest efforts. It has researched into the matter and has appealed to alumni, lovers of art, philanthropists, the public and private organizations to come forward to preserve the grand Senate House.