Home > India > Chandigarh – architectural arrogance

Chandigarh – architectural arrogance

I always thought that Corbusier was the masterplanner for Chandigarh – the new Indian city needed to make a place for refugees. It turns out that the hard work, and most of the decent decisions, were actually made by an American architect and his assistant, their work coming to an abrupt end with a plane crash. Corb then only taking over in the role as advisor and “saviour” to a desperate Indian Government not wanting to lose face.



It is like nothing else we have seen in India - and quite clean too.

Chandigarh is a must for a masterplanners, because it shows first hand the good and bad that comes from top down masterplanning. In fact, the plan works well, the traffic moves, there is adequate space, services are in about the right place BUT….. When it comes to living accommodation it is another story. The repetitive blocks of unified imagery, the objects in space, the lack of a relationship with the ground and no personal ownership, all show up as failings in the design for LIVING. Unité only works once!

classic Le Corbusier

there is a certain irony in the solar shading being used to house air-con units

the Law Courts - probably the most mannered of all the buildings

In summary, the big architecture works well, but the “living” aspects are pretty dire. The plan also did not prepare for what the Indian culture can do in terms of “dirtification”, and neither did the plan prepare for un-ending and uncontrolled expansion of the city – as second city would have been a better decision, but sometimes it is hard to deliver the politics in India.

super weird sculptures - kept secret for decades

sculptures all made with bracelets

Highlights (for me anyway) included the Corb buildings of the secretariat and law courts, all sited adjacent to the “illegal” recycled material sculptures of Nek Chand and the enormous never ending rose gardens that form a central part of the green corridor. Of the three, the junk sculptures were probably the most unique, featured a couple of years ago on British TV as part of the “Lifes Work” series. It was pretty spectacular, especially the sculptures made of broken bangles. Sometimes I struggle to believe he found all the stuff as junk from the displaced villages (there were actually only 2 villages moved), but it was still very impressive. (which is more than could be said about our hotel).

strimming Indian style - with a 3 foot sword.

crossing town in a well filled auto-rickshaw

Categories: India Tags: , ,
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