Assembly, Chandigarh.

’ Ancient Occidental Folk-song C. a In 1922. in art. Peter are a passion!' Throughout his life. Cocteau wrote in Vanity Fair:---’Genius. One approaches closer and closer to the complex. voluptuous complexity of shadow and substance. Then in the distance. evocative architecture! Stones are dead things sleeping in the quarry. Thus each of Corb's buildings has been a consecutive step in his search to develop the power and further the boundaries--of his vocabulary and syntax. and as an artist he has become more and more aware of the importance of developing an impassioned visual language that would project these concepts. "Don't touch it any more" cries the amateur. and down the surrealistic roads--V 1’s and V 2's--running between brick walls to infinity. No soffo voce. Gradually this proscenium clears. riding high above the rows of gimcrack houses that make up the foreground. white in the sunlight. Ride together. no politeness. but concept alone is not enough. appears the Secretariat. This is probably the single most important fact about Corb because it necessitates his discarding any solutions which cannot be projected at the decibel level he favours. He has always sought to demonstrate something we did not know. (It is interesting to note that when Corb sometimes intentionally lowers the volume. and the bleached whiteness deepens slowly into the greygreen of concrete.’ . It is then that the true artist takes his chance. consists in knowing how far we may go too far. From miles away one sees it. as for instance in the new extensions to the High Court. and the other two elements of the Capitol appear: the Assembly and the High Court: and the three buildings ride together against the grey-blue foot-hills of the Himalayas. but the apses of St. brave new Chandigarh. Other architects from Brazil to Tokyo have created buildings which can be termed 'applied Corb'. Corb immediately perceived the necessity for a strong concept ('the plan is the generator'). One travels through the town. Corb has sought to create an architecture of passion. M. Corb himself has never applied what is safe and proven. swinging sometimes in front of each other and sometimes behind enormous banks of earth. Chandigarh. he achieves an architecture not unlike that of Louis Kahn. the simple outlines of the masses dissolve into an astonishing. past the houses spread out in the dust like endless rows of confidence-tricks.) a How does one project architecture at this decibel level? As an intelligent architect. born in the harsh plains of the Punjab without umbilical cord. His buildings —both in concept and visual languagehave always been presented at a certain decibel level.Report From Chandigarh 'He flies through the air with the greatest of ease That daring old man on the flying trapeze. but–like Wagnerthunder in the concert hall. like an aircraft carrier floating above the flotsam and jetsam of some harbour town. Incredible. CORREA One arrives at Chandigarh. racing along with the car.

where. with disciplined exactitude and precision .) So also the Assembly. for instance. structural.. Did not the earlier Corb promise something less skin-deep. but to the functions of the programme and to the very spaces within the building itself. he's a freak. where are located the hyperbolic form of the assembly chamber. (Corb has provided the principal users of the building--the legislators. the pyramid and the life-tower play out a dance-drama against the sky. In other words. we pity him. exchanging positions and crossing back and forth. By never defining the limits of this vision (the sections and plans are co-ordinated so that the eye can always see beyond and around the corner). the ramp on the roof of the Secretariat which acts like an immense spine holding the marvellously long. it is still only one aspect of any great architecture.. relevance. something more conceptual? The third building in the complex.And Corb himself has written in Acrobat: An acrobat is no puppet. . The idea behind the Assembly is extremely simple along three sides of the building. Corb. in perpetual danger of death. (Eliminate the ramp and the facade disintegrates into several different buildings. The complexity of his architecture is not due to the creation of one single intricate pattern but is rather due to the creation of several different patterns which. and however masterful this language may have become. is keenly aware of the distances that can be seen from any given point. of the acrobat Results: most certainly ! He does things which others cannot. Even a cursory glance will illustrate how very cunning and sensitive is Corb's handling of spaces. This is a fundamental technique of Corb's. Results: why does he do them? others ask. e. nor to a facade. for they must also provide counterpoint to the facade of the Secretariat next door. This can be illustrated by the river facade of the millowners' building in Ahmedabad (four separate patterns playing together like instruments in a band). The other three facades (which form the base of this 'stage') are simple. ranging from 35 ft. across. necessarily so. in height. through superimposition. but with a spell-binding entrance where a whole new aesthetic world came into being. . as. The hyperboloid is inexpressibly beautiful from a distance--white in the sunlight. and perhaps sociological. he's a bore. etc. 200 ft. the press and the visiting public--each with their own system of entrances. almost like a stage-set. and the Secretariat: a structure with a magnificent facade. are located offices and conference rooms.g. (Corb certainly knows how to provide an entrance. stairs. is--in this sense--a return to the earlier Corb.) a How can one begin to convey a sense of so complex an interior? Study the sections and plans. In the centre is an interior court. He devotes his life to activities in which. the fourth side is an enormous portico which 'orients' the building towards the High Court. Nobody owes him any thanks. the Unite is an astonishing complex of spatial. square!) and the drama of the interior spaces commences. the new Assembly. lobbies. one thinks of the mill-owner's building in Ahmedabad with its ramp reaching out like a long hand to pick passers-by off the road. in his work up to the Unite d'Habitation at Marseilles Corb gave weight to both these aspects of architecture. One enters under the 50 ft. The three elements pirouette around each other as we approach the building. and by the facade of the Secretariat. (In fact. Finally they recede behind the enormous sweep of the portico. The drama of the building starts with its skyline. the spaces remain dynamic and uncontained. his continuous use of the L-shape (the leg of which forms an escape-valve to what would otherwise be a static square). 300 ft. He is showing off. the three elements on the roof: the hyperboloid. yet soft as snow. thus ensuring their separation. ungainly facade together. a complete landscape Concept and language. He lives in an extraordinary world. turning it to face the High Court. economic. generate an indescribable complexity. free to break his neck and his bones and be crushed. like Frank Lloyd Wright. Nobody asked him to do this. So we have the High Court: a building where large areas were ill-planned and badly lit. for in this Assembly he has produced an architecture that is not restricted to an entrance. to 45 ft. the office workers. And so it is the gargantuan portico which gives the building direction. Corb has always placed the greatest emphasis on the total volume of a building and its silhouette against the sky. As one traverses the ramps and platform levels of the forum one builds up a series of images which are superimposed on the brain.) Since then--and especially in his buildings in India---Corb has become more and more absorbed in his visual language.) . creating an overall pattern of incredible richness. ramps and platform levels that make up the forum. high canopy and through the pivoting door (25 ft. he scares us. he performs extraordinary movements of infinite difficulty. fractured. square. the rectangle (surmounted by a skew pyramidal roof) of the council chamber and the extraordinary collection of spaces.

The Basic drum beat 1 Volumes added 2 5 Structural rhythm 3 5 Part of the facade of the Secretariat at Chandigarh. A similar technique used in the marble grilles of Fatehpur Sikri 6 Brise-soleil superimposed 4 1. illustrating Le Corbusier’s use of superimposed patterns of varying scales. illustrating use of brise-soleil as a transparent screen rather than as substitute facade. 7 . 6 The High Court Chandigarh. 2. 3 & 4 Diagrammatic analysis of the river facade of the Mill-owner’s building at Ahmedabad. composed of four separate superimposed patterns. 7.

The miracles follow of their own accord. the pyramid and the lift-tower. for the purpose of analogy. The columns give rhythm and scale. Yet this articulation of the structural system never borders on mannerism. to heighten meaning. The walls swerve upward to a height of over 100 ft. yellow and white. Corb falters. and his buildings. and a complete landscape is generated. Then we emerge on to the roof level and into the dazzling sunlight. and it results in an architecture of great flexibility. The last act of the drama--like the opening of the dramais played out here against the sky. for Corb is working at a vast scale. And the finest landscape of all lies within the forum. (The exception perhaps is the museum at Ahmedabad which is his blandest. are never non-directional. Here the light gets dimmer. building. is an essential technique of Corb's.is created by juxtaposing brisesoleil grilles of various patterns and scales.) It has been said that one understands the hardness of rock only if one knows the softness of silk. like those of Wright. to break up the monumental space. the spaces more diffuse. only one side of the coin. the sense of spatial control is so masterful that it is perplexing that at the climax of the composition.) The use of contrast. How does so complex a building hold visually together? Primarily through the near-exclusive use of a single material: concrete. then Corb is certainly the man for a really first-class curry. But to what avail? Even what Mumford has called the 'over ingenious' mind of Corb cannot gainsay these facts: the Assembly chamber is an unhappy place to step into. emerge the hyperboloid. One enters this chamber and one is at the bottom of a gigantic well. (And danger has its own rewards: crossing the jungle at night may be a fearsome experience. cunning as he is. the Assembly chamber itself. and Corb could never be exclusively brutal any more than he could be exclusively elegant. Any ape can be brutal. and like monsters rising above the surface of the sea.') Thus we find that at certain levels of the Assemblyas for instance in the bridge connecting the lift-tower to the top of the hyperboloid--the physical protection provid- ed is completely inadequate. ('This way I know what salt is and I know what meat is. then. Much has been written about the brutality of Corb's architecture and. washing the concrete surfaces. and down strange alleyways. thus necessitating a great many columns rising to a great many different heights.) The Chandigarh Assembly has. he has used yellow wool carpets. filtering from above. A sense of danger also exists in some portions of Shodan's house in Ahmedabad. What he has done is this: he has been shrewd enough to establish a situation where different patterns can interact. he has installed green and brown seats alternately in a sort of checker-board pattern. Mies--who may himself be brought in at this point to provide contrastis an architect who plays a very limited range of the spectrum: and if he may. deeply evocative of an architecture past. and it is a near impossible Parliament to deliberate in. they are usually ambiguous with a myriad overtones. but it gets you to keep your eyes open. they always emphasize their sense of orientation and therefore their sense of life. the landscape of Chandigarh lying all around. as evidence. One is walking across large desolate areas. is usually cited his handling of concrete. and he knows just what he can and cannot do. A Miesian plan brines the simplest elements together in an atmosphere of Olympian calm. In an attempt to kill this height Corb has painted the walls in three horizontal bands -red. in a very large measure. thus covering a wide spectrum of human emotions. It is essential to his temperament that he expresses both qualities at the same time. making many simultaneous statements. a a . and further. devoid of any too particular orientation (unfortunately. throughout the building. And it is this light. has probably observed this. and its impact--its decibel level--is perfectly gauged in scale to its size. Where are we? At the top of the Duormo? It is a strange moment. through vulgarization. this has popularized an effete symmetry that has swept America like diarrhoea). Here we are on an immense cobbled piazza. rising like a great forest in the dulcet light. lie is much more than that. and Corb himself reputedly sprinkles his biftek with large granules of kitchen salt. your ears flapping. this sense of life. in fact. be described as an artist who can take a potato and boil it perfectly. and weakest. (A glance at: the Jaoul houses in Paris will illustrate this. (This technique is often used in the marble grilles of Fatehpur Sikri and the shoji screens of Japan. It is an exuberant building. Corb. between giant concrete forms. perhaps is the necessary concomitant of safety. Here all the major elements are self-supporting. But Corb's brutality is.) This is not to say that Corb could really have calculated all these effects. that draws us upward into the higher reaches of the building. it is a space at rest. and the question is asked: Why has Corb done this? Yet try to imagine the same architecture with a safe three-foot-high parapet providing uniform protection all around! Danger. But Corb's elements are seldom simple and crystalclear. In fact. In an attempt to increase the amount of light reaching the floor (the natural light in the chamber is painfully inadequate). an eclectic moment. your senses alert.

Thus one derives as much pleasure from the minor houses of Wright. The great buildings (and cities) of the past were a collection of a good many decisions--some right and some wrong. Corb's buildings in India are particularly ill-ventilated (the exception is the Sarabhai house in Ahmedabad). Recently a New Delhi housewife said to me: 'Those buildings in Chandigarh! They are huge. Surely this is why a building of Corb's sits so well in Indian soil. they do not seem to matter. the golden age. Many of them imitate Corb as though his visual language was an entity in itself. These architects are perhaps more dangerous. the lesser plays of Shakespeare and the earlier quartets of Beethoven as one does from any of their masterworks. His aesthetic evokes our history. It is alleged that Edward Stone's embassy in Delhi is 'Indian'if it is. One thinks of Steen Eiler Rasmussen saying that Corb's buildings are sometimes like games children play with chairs and boxes. whereas at Harvard it seems an affection. The children set these up in a certain way.' And an American photographer cried angrily of the Assembly: 'It's just a very fancy jungle gym. who should have come along loaded with twentieth-centurytype logic (like the domes of Buckminster Fuller). Here the majority of older architects practise an architecture that seems a cross bet- ween the Beaux-Arts and Ajanta. It has stimulated a whole generation of architects. in spite of these antagonisms and misunderstandings. yet somehow. they dislike his aesthetics. in so glorious an architecture.' Is the great period. a likely reason for the unhappy state of affairs is the light.What is the reason for this seeming failure? The fluid shape of the hyperboloid is hardly to blame. and India of the bazaars. the solstice.' The muses of architecture ride the centuries on a pendulum.) . over? There will. He says he would rather stay on in his Jeanneret-designed bungalow. The result of all this is that the public is antagonistic to Corb. perhaps he is on earth again. he seems merely to have produced a work of 'applied Corb. Yet. unwrittingly.e. those eyes that will not see. raucous in colour. They dislike his lack of climate control. and Chandigarh finds echoes in Fatehpur Sikri. This puts it exactly 100 per cent out of phase with the state of events in India. as for instance that at Harvard. They dislike his concrete. This analogy becomes even more pertinent if we consider Corb's buildings and their relevance to the Indian climate. his idiosyncrasies and his mistakes are part of his character. The younger architects are not much better. and they are supposed to let in direct sunlight only on particular daysi.' (Of course these are both. Yet an architect of Corb's inventiveness could have made considerable progress in developing a modern vocabulary that could deal with India's climate (as was done by the great architects of the past). in Mandu. june 1964. Perhaps Chandigarh is the last great work of Corb. clumsy.) More important. be those who do not agree. And in India there is a saying: 'An architect should complete only 60 per cent of his building and leave 40 per cent to God. To them it is a motor car. Corb has evoked a much deeper image. etc. this is what makes them so human. sprawling. one cannot avoid feeling that he is straining his visual language without extending it. On the contrary it is a surprisingly sensible choice and perhaps the only static space which could climax the dynamic images of the forum areas. among us. In Boston. Instead. In some of his other projects since. can actually be used to vindicate them all the way down the line. stubbornly seeking the tension-wire and the lonely figure of the balancing acrobat. And it has given them a sense of their past. Like any major artist. His is a more real India. it makes impossible conditions for those using the chamber right here and now. there is no doubt that Corb's work has been of considerable benefit to India. But more than anything else. and then they cry: Look at the motor car? If you say: How can it be a motor car? Does it move? They do not understand. So Corb has his failures. awful athletes. the equinox. because in some inexplicable way Corb is tuned to this country. in Jaiselmer. in Berlin. Yet again at other times. as in the Unite at Berlin. is the fact that the Governor's Palace will never be built--the Governor having rejected the design. cruel. Where has he gone? Perhaps he is old. with a grandeur all its own. perhaps. if only he had wanted to actually solve the problem of climate rather than play at solving it. Yet Corb. (Reprinted from " The Architectural Review" London. for sure. that in art at this level a certain amount of ambiguity and error makes for realityreality being the antithesis of slickness. In the West the pendulum swung all the way to functionalism and now it is swinging back. perhaps his act is over. then it is the fake India of the Taj Mahal and Hollywood. Corb has inserted only three openings in the circular roof. they will continue to search the sky. While this surely will make a charming story for a guidebook a hundred years hence. worth a text of its own. like General Motor styling. In spite of the double roofs and brisesoleil and umbrellas. It is a curious point. compliments. for they exploit Corb's photogenic mannerisms without even beginning to understand either his sense of space or his control of light. in Tokyo.

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