Recently, Josh from our studio went on a tour of India. This week he shares his impressions of the unique Le Corbusier designed, Chandigarh.
In January of this year I had the pleasure of visiting the city of Chandigarh, the dual capital of Panjab and Haryana in northern India. The city was laid out by French architect Le Corbusier in the early 1950’s and is viewed by many as India’s only planned city. In stark contrast to every other city in the country, Chandigarh’s architecture is consistently modern and the materials employed are an unwavering combination of poured concrete, brick and steel framed windows.
When traveling around Chandigarh the first thing you notice are the trees. Other than New Delhi one sees very few trees in Indian cities. Here there are thousands upon thousands. They were planted in straight lines and were part of Le Corbusier’s design for the city. Obviously, more trees means more space and better air quality – two things in short supply in the country.
My tour of Chandigarh started at the Panjab University, a huge, sprawling campus, which is similar to many American universities built in the mid 20th Century. The campus may look unkempt here but these pictures were taken during the dry season. Visit these same places in the summer and they, like the rest of India, will be lush and overgrown. The photo above shows the Gandhi Bhawan surrounded by a huge swath of concrete. This is actually a dry reflecting pool which is appropriate considering the architect of this structure Pierre Jeanneret derived its form from a lotus flower.
The highlight of the University of Panjab was Le Corbusier’s School of Architecture. A master of filtering light and understanding shadow, LC designed a wonderful oasis for design with studios filled with indirect, natural light as well as shaded areas to escape the harsh Indian sun.
The grandest buildings in the city are located in the Cultural Center at the North end of the city. Here the grid of the city disintegrates into the hills that eventually lead to the Himalaya. The Cultural Center is comprised of Le Corbusier’s monuments and the three structures of government: the Secretariat, the Legislature & the High Court.
In these buildings one can see Le Corbusier’s genius: his mastery of the elevation, his understanding of light and shadow and his ability (which I believe is unparalleled) to take you on an ever revealing ride. Though they share a common exterior of raw concrete, each building has it’s own character and there is a harmonious interplay between them. Sadly, what you will not see here are the incredible interior spaces of the Legislature, as photos are not allowed.
The wide boulevards virtually devoid of traffic are another anomaly. Nek Chand’s Rock Garden and the Rose Garden are other “must see” places in Chandigarh.
You can find out more on LC's Chandigarh here.
Photos by Josh Geurtsen