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The Map of Chandigarh
Offered by Peter Petrou
Le Corbusier, the Modernist architectural visionary drew up the master plan. On his first visit to the area he was enraptured by the unity of life in India and during his week long stay he filled thirty-two pages of his large sketchbook with the main concepts; the architecture was to be "Neither English, nor French, nor American, but Indian". As he later commented “The last touches have been put to the plan of what will become a city unique in the world, to be realized here in simplicity and the joy of living. To do such a thing, we had to come to India!”
Le Corbusier’s second in command was Pierre Jeanneret who had the understanding and technical ability to realize the dreams of Corbusier in what was a remote area with an inhospitable sub tropical climate; dry for ten months and with the monsoon in July and August.
This team did not work for great financial reward but were inspired by idealistic principles to build the first post-independence, modern, progressive city, a new forward looking capital for the East Punjab (Lahore had become part of Pakistan during partition) and neighbouring Haryana.
As well as planning the complete city Corbusier also designed the Capitol which incorporates the Parliament, The Secretariat, the Governor’s Palace and the Justice Court, also the Museum and Art Gallery, the Government College of Art and the Chandigarh College of Architecture.
With many parks and water features, the city is based on rectangles, or sectors, which are intended to be self-sufficient neighbourhood units bound by roads, and every aspect of the city, every tiny detail, was designed for Chandigarh including all the street furniture and the manhole covers which feature the master plan of India’s first Modernist city.
Le Corbusier, the most influential architect of the 20th Century
Corbusier, like Mies van der Rohe and many of his generation, had little architectural training but he did have very strong convictions; he saw the 20th century as a time when engineering and technological advances would change the world for ever and saw that architecture was stuck in historicism. After WWI, living spaces in the cities of Europe, were, for the masses, dark and crowded. His vision was of the house as a machine for living in; he refined and simplified design, dispensing with ornamentation whilst recognizing the need for a variety of interiors, for comfort and for open spaces. He was inspired by the use of concrete and his urban planning incorporated commercial, industrial and residential districts separated by fast flowing highways (he understood that the use of cars would become widespread) and parkland. Although this vision was plagiarized by a number of local councils in 1960’s Britain who, however, built without his essential humanist principals, the City of Chandigarh, remains the best-planned city in India with world-renowned architecture co-existing with landscaped, tree-filled open spaces and is known as “The City Beautiful”.
Le Corbusier Pierre Jeanneret by Eric Touchaleaume & Gerald Moreau pub. 2010 by Galerie 54 Paris
Chandigarh.gov.in The official website of the Chandigarh Administration
The Open University lecture by Dominic Gallagher pub. 2001