Corbusier's Chandigarh Up for Preservation

A favorite target of planners, Corbusier's radical design for Chandigarh in India is being considered by UNESCO as a world heritage site.

"Almost 50 years ago, Nehru saw Chandigarh as a symbol of the new India, a city that would prove the country's ability to unite the social classes, embrace modernity and inspire generations of thinkers and inventors. Constructed as the new capital of the sorely divided Punjab, Chandigarh gave architect Le Corbusier his only opportunity to implement his modernist ideals about shaping cities around the new mode of transportation-cars; self-sufficient sectors dividing a city into small parts; and the nobility of cement as a building material.

In reality, after its much-crowed-about beginnings, Chandigarh, with its quirky architecture, settled for the status of a second-tier city, meant for bureaucrats and middle managers. Long-time residents called it the best place to live in India; others called it a city for the "dead and the dying"; and the rest of the country barely cast a second glance at it."

Full Story: The Chandigarh dream



Chandigarh, a world heritage site

In the first flush of enthusiasm to build a nation, the then Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, a highly 'westernized' person naturally looked for a European to design "Chandigarh" the new capital of Punjab.
Despite India's tradition and heritage of city building at least 5000 years before Christ; he, with his overwhelming popularity then, had his way in selecting Corbusier, a highly creative and "sculpturous" Architect to design a city. His design for Chandigarh, at best followed a well trodden path of European city builders and is "Regalistic" and "Colonial" in content.
Albert Myers and Nowiki who had been earlier selected to design the city had produced early sketches which were inspired by Rajasthan Architecture and city building which was so approprite for the extreme hot and cold climate of Punjab and with its sheltered streets had a distinct Indian flavour
Unfortunately, Nowiki died in an air crash and Corbusier with a "halo" round his name succeeded in marketing his mundane and novice city building design but highly sculptural building designs for the State Asembly building and Secretariat and grabbed the commission.

It would be a travesty if Chandigarh is selected as a heritage site of India!

Prakash M Apte

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