Opening the Shutters on Chandigarh's Monuments

Chandigarh, the modernist city designed by Le Corbusier in India, is becoming increasingly popular among scholars, critics and a rising residential population. But some of the best parts of the city are closed to the public.

A growing rank of activists in Chandigarh has set out to get the government to open some of these closed off monuments, such as the Open Hand sculpture.

"Today, however, Chandigarh's citizens are beginning to wake up to this magnificent structure. A series of initiatives promises to bring life to the capitol and the Open Hand. Hum Log ("We the People") is a citizens' initiative working to "reclaim" the Open Hand by organizing street theater, debates and conferences at the venue. (On August 15, India's Independence Day, it assembled townspeople for a group sing-along of patriotic songs.) Hum Log's founder, Dr. Gaurav Chhabra, lays emphasis on the relationship of people with architecture, and on the importance of group action. "Participation," he says, "is the essence. Once people start to participate, the rest follows." He and his team have collected activists from around the city and beyond to highlight the monument and give visibility to its restricted access.

On January 29, 2010, their efforts paid off. Chandigarh's government lifted the ban on social gatherings at the Open Hand and allowed it to be open to citizens daily between 10:30 and 3:30. Tourists and other outsiders, however, must still apply to the city's administration for permission to visit, a burdensome stipulation that Chhabra believes undermines Le Corbusier's vision."

Full Story: The Town That Corbusier Built

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