Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh

Le Corbusier, the French-Swiss architecture extraordinaire created masterpieces around the world. The beautiful city of Chandigarh stands as a timeless example of his genius in Modern Architecture. 

“The materials of city planning are sky, space, trees, steel and cement in that order and in that hierarchy.”

Le Corbusier or Charles-Edouard Jeanneret was the pioneer of modern architecture. He was a French-Swiss architect, city planner, urbanist, artist and painter who emerged as the most important giant of 20th-century architecture. Being largely self-taught, he created impressive buildings all over the world--from France, Germany, South America to even India.

 

He was responsible for the architectural planning of the city of Chandigarh, the capital of the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana and also designed some of the most iconic buildings present in Ahmedabad, Gujrat.

During the partition of 1947, the state of Punjab was split between India and Pakistan. Since Lahore (the former capital) became part of Pakistan, a new capital (Chandigarh) was carved out. It was the dream city of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru who wanted the city to represent modernity, progress and be symbolic of the freedom of India.

 

The initial plans were created by the Polish architect Maciej Nowicki and the American planner Albert Mayer. Slight remnants from the original plans remained in Le Corbusier's final drafts, but he had a greater level of personal input.

Le Corbusier, the man who shaped the perceptions of modernity itself, made India witness the first wave of Brutalism. He tailored a master plan having the general layout of the city and divided it into large sectors. Each sector is designed as a self-reliant independent neighbourhood that is complete in itself--with shops, schools and entertainments. The system of grand boulevards contrasts the concrete buildings with an abundance of greenery. 

Le Corbusier incorporated the primary geometric elements as his architectural tools. He said, “Our eyes are made to see forms in the light...cubes, cones, spheres, cylinders or pyramids are the great primary forms.” 

Le Corbusier designed numerous administration buildings such as the High Court, the Palace of Assembly, and the Secretariat Building. One prominent motif in the union territory is the open hand monument which stands tall and striking at 26 meters, designed to rotate in the wind. The open hand monument (La Main Ouverte) is a part of the Capitol Complex which was designed by Corbusier and his cousin and fellow architect Pierre Jeanerret. 

The city’s emblem stands for the act of giving and receiving, the unity between mankind, and the symbol of the Government of Chandigarh. He also expressed that it was a recurring idea and theme called the "Second Machine Age"

Kapil Setia, Chief Architect at the Chandigarh Administration explained in an interview, “He compared his plan to the human body, with the capital buildings at its head, the central business district as the heart, and with the industrial areas on the eastern flank and the knowledge and education area on the other side as the two arms.”

The Capitol complex has a different aesthetic--with the secretariat, the assembly and the high court standing together. Comprising the three pillars of democracy (legislature, executive and judiciary) set against the Shivalik peaks. Along with the Capitol Complex, he designed the Museum Complex and the City Centre. Ever since it’s been built, Chandigarh is renowned in both the Indian and global architectural fields.

Far little is known about his link with Ahmedabad: A city that is well-known for being historically active in India’s textile trade. It has five buildings, two homes and two public buildings constructed by Le Corbusier. One of the first completed was Mill Owners' Association Building, also referred to as Ahmedabad Textile Mill Owners' Association House (ATMA House). The design of the three-stored building has more rectilinear and grid expressed exteriors as compared to the interior spaces, which have soft, curvilinear forms with hints of colour like the red entrance door.  An architecture feature by using the parasol and the Brise Soleil (translating “sun breaker” in French) added a roof that would let the daylight in but still provide shade.

The two homes--Shodhan Villa and Sarabhai Villa have a cube-like structure. However, it blends perfectly with the elements of nature. Each building that he designed has a distinct well-defined structure. 

 

He created masterpieces with an indescribable quality where every aspect complements the whole. The dream city that was born at the time of the country’s dreadful situation is now one of the few master-planned ideal cities in the world to have succeeded and stood the test of time. Le Corbusier left a mark on twentieth-century architecture through his prodigious work and made an exceptional contribution to the Modern Movement throughout his lifetime. 

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