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History of Architecture (AP313) | Essay | 2014

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Development of Chandigarh and its impact on Indian

Essay for History of Architecture (AP131)

Nivesh Gaur
Roll Number: 08716901611
Sushant School of Art and Architecture

Chandigarhs history as a city had always set it apart from other cities in the
country thanks to its prestige as the countrys first planned city. Because it
was planned, it was inclined to the differing significant ideas of various
planners at the time. In the end, it was urbanism that won out and developed
Chandigarh into the city it is today. However, what were the effects of having
a city sculpted after urbanist ideas? In order to get a clear answer, one must
look at the history of the city in question.
Around the year 1947, India had finally gained their independence from the
British Empire. Shortly after attainment of their independence, however, one
of their wealthiest provinces, named Punjab, was divided into two (Kemme
1992, 11). This division resulted in Indias loss of Lahoreits rich,
significant capital. In order to respect their efforts, the government of India
decided to create a new city that would efficiently be a mark of the potential
of an independent India, as well as provide its citizens with the sense of
unity and prove its independence to the world (Kemme 1992, 11).
Additionally, none of the existing towns at the moment could house the new
capital, for none of them seemed capable of supporting the expansion
essential to provide for government functions, especially as the population
of the state began to increase with the migration of displaced people from
Pakistan (Fitting 71-72). While the prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru,
was delighted with this plan, the project itself did not have much local
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political backing due to its need of displacing 9000 inhabitants of the
proposed site.

In order to plan out the new city, Nehru decided that it would be in the
countrys best interest to appoint architects who hail from countries abroad
with some knowledge of the Indian way of life. This, in turn, led Nehru to
contract American architect Albert Mayer as the planner for the new city.
While Mayer wished to have his team help in creating the new city, there was
little curiosity among them. Joining Mayer to aid in the project was Matthew
Nowicki, a Siberian architect who was highly recommended by members of
Mayers group. Together, they proposed a master plan that is a conclusion
of the ideas which originated with Radburn and the Greenbelt Towns of the
1930s, as well as with the super block development of Baldwin Hills, an
expression of the ideas of the English Garden City movement, (Kemme
1992, 12). Unfortunately, due to an unanticipated plane crash that resulted
in the death of Nowicki, the association between Mayer and the Indian
government slowly collapsed and the master plan was eventually abandoned.
With no one to help plan the city, the Prime Minister turns to other
architects, mainly those with less experience in the Indian way of life. This
paves the way for Le Corbusier to take over the project, and, with nearly
complete liberty, allows Le Corbusier to create a city in his vision from the
very scratch.
Le Corbusiers key job involved planning the city itself, as well as the High
Court, Secretariat, Assembly, Raj Bhawan and other main buildings. Within
these plans was the gesture to set aside an area to be designated as the
Industrial Area. This Industrial Area, while not as traditional as most
industrial areas, allows the city to have some kind of Service Industry which
keeps the city going, . At the same time, both planners and government did
not want the city to become afflicted with pollution issues, which led them to
ban industries that produced smoke or any other obnoxious effluents. At
the same time, many of the ideas included in the new master plan by Le
Corbusier involved the ideas of Mayer and Nowicki, even however evidence
suggests that Le Corbusiers plan was not a marginally modified version of
Mayers plan. Yet, many things that were in Mayer and Nowickis original
master plan for the city were debarred, such as a bazaar that had room for
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artisans and minor businesses, which would later on affect the economic
base of Chandigarh (Kemme 1992, 12). Construction of the city lasted some
years, but by the end of 1952, most government branches had moved from
its temporary housingthe city of Shimlato Chandigarh (Fitting 2002, 72).
By September 1953, the move was complete (Fitting 2002, 72). Thanks to Le
Corbusiers efforts, Chandigarh became to be known to be one of the
boldest experiments in planning as Chandigarh breaks the bond of
traditional cities.

Mayers Msterplan. Le Corbusiers Masterplan
The plan of Chandigarh (1952) is a rationalisation and de-Anglo-
Saxonisation of that designed by Mayer and Nowicki. Le Corbusier
straightened the road and park networks designed by them to follow
contours and water channels into a rational orthogonal grid. Chandigarh is a
low-rise town. Le Corbusier kept for himself the design of the capital
complex and, at least partially, some other major buildings- a museum and
an exhibition hall, built in 1964-86. The housing design were assigned to
Fry and Drew, Jeanerette and others. The work of the Indian architects who
followed Le Corbusier- the Chandigarh School, used his geometric
ideologies so closely that it is not always possible to differentiate between
the work done by Le Corbusier and what is the work of his disciples.
All the architects involved in Chandigarh concerned about dealing
appropriately with the Indian climate and construction methods (including
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the use of labour intensive building methods). The housing designs show a
variety of innovations. Jeanerettes use of interplay of decorative brickwork
and plain plaster to make his buildings look impressive than they really are
was new to India and Fry and Drew introduced the Le Corbusian egg-crate
use into domestic work. Even as it addresses the Indian context, the city yet
remains international in character (Evenson 1966, Kalia, 1987, Joshi, 1999).
Perhaps the most telling comment on Chandigarh is threat of a disciple, B.V
Doshi : Chandigarh gives is Le Corbusiers logic of the future not a present
Indian life.
Le Corbusiers Indian admirers loved his futurist thinking, his clear and
boldly stated vision of what architecture (and cities) should be. His impact
has occurred in four stages. During the first stage his work was almost
directly copied. During the second stage his ideas appeared to be more
significant than his form. During the third stage, his work was disparaged
and all its faults and irrelevancies were pointed out. Now his work is being
assessed afresh for what it affords India.
The first phase of Le Corbusiers influence on India is not surprising for
many young architects had developed close connections with him. Certainly,
his presentation of himself as an individual creative intellect impressed
young Indian architects. Many young architects worked for him either in
Chandigarh or on his Ahmedabad buildings. The list is impressive in terms
of their succeeding contribution to Indian architecture and to the profession.
B.V Doshi worked for Le Corbusier in Paris, then was his site architect in
Chandigarh (1954-7) and was very involved in Le Corbusiers Ahmedabad
work. Many of the architects who worked with Le Corbusier executed work
using his design patters. Some became locked into it stylistically but others,
such as Doshi, while owed a long-lasting debt to Le Corbusier, developed
very much into their own people. As Doshi put it : young architects learnt
form him how to look at structure and function, how to create space from
components to achieve a form in relation to the landscape around it.
Le Corbusiers international colleagues were also influential even if to a
much lesser extent. Of them, Jeanerette worked in India the longest, from
19511965. With a deep concern for India, he made lasting impression on
the people with whom he worked. Apart from the housing work in
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Chandigarh he was involved in the site planning for Punjab University and
designed the Gandhi Bhavan. Jane drew worked tirelessly for Chandigarh to
be known as a world Heritage Site and thus constantly kept the city in the
worlds as well as architects eyes.
The indirect impact of Le Corbusiers work via the work of other architects
can also be seen in India. Indian architects of the era were inspired by the
widespread Le Corbusier inspired Modernist work built in Brazil while Europe
was at war. Le Corbusiers impact on India was thus at many levels, as an
employer, as a theorist, as a form give and as an educator.
Le Corbusiers belief that there is a scientific key to all societys issues has
been criticized as detached with the real world. Le Corbusier believed that
aesthetic and formal considerations would be sufficient to address social
difficulties and inequities. Their solutions were found through a rationalist
and a historic process (Leidenberger, 2006, 455). This means that Le
Corbusier put form over the traditions and cultures of the inhabitants. This
strategy often resulted in an alienating environment that residents felt
minute connection to, which was the case in the Le Corbusier-designed city
of Chandigarh, India and the modernist-influenced city of Bijlmermeer,
Le Corbusiers belief in social progression through technology led him to
support the emerging industrial practices, that is, mass production methods
and a car-based transportation culture. He thought standardized high rises
were the ideal form of a modernist urban city and separation of zoning was
the ideal setup for a healthy society. Approval of modern transportation and
single use districts manifested itself spatially in his theories such that the
ideal location for residential buildings was away from commercial and
industrial centres. In real life, this practice had an isolating effect on
residents of high-rise developments because they did not have entree to
public transit or means of transportation to city resources. As Leidenberger
states effective transportation facilities demonstrated to be crucial in tying
high density residential patches to distinct locations of work, education,
leisure, and commerce. CIAM modernists looked at transportation as the
strategic to maximize contacts among urban dwellers, which were reflected
to lie at the root of social harmony
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Chandigarh, India which Le Corbusier himself backed to was initially
perceived as a failed city. Kalia claims that the problems experienced by
Chandigarh were from the absence of local authority, a lack of
understanding of the local culture and ethics on the part of the planners, and
the history of the region. Authority relations, lines of responsibility, and
decision-making structures never became clear (Kalia, 1985, 135).
Chandigarh experienced a sudden conflict with modernism in what was a
tradition-bound, rural, and financially conservative (Kalia, 1985, 135)
location. Thus, his design was considered sterile and profoundly alienating
because of the absence of street life (Fitting, 2002, 74) such as bazaars.
Also, in line with the separation of uses principle, Le Corbusier placed the
capitol complex away from the city, which also had an alienating result on
the citizens this act rendered the monumental dimension of Le Corbusiers
vision remote and detached from the citizens (Fitting, 2002, 79). In one
sense, this could be interpreted as a failure of Le Corbusiers ideological
certainty that design should be a historical, but the fact that executive issues
and explosive population growth were also involved shows that political
contexts also contributed to Chandigarhs problems.

1. Corbusier, Le. Towards a New Architecture. reprint. s.l. : CreateSpace
Independent Publishing Platform, 2011. ISBN: 1466216395, 9781466216396.
2. A Concise History of Modern Architecture in India by John T lang, 2002
3. Chandigarh. Living with Le Corbusier by Jovis Verlag, 2010

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