Chandigarh: Vision and Reality
by Sarosh Anklesaria
The golden jubilee celebrations of 1999 and 2000 marked fifty years since the conception of Chandigarh, India, one of the few built examples of modernist town planning. Now, planners and architects the world over are showing renewed interest in this unusual modernist city.
In 1951, the French architect Le Corbusier conceived a master plan for the city — in only four days! Yet the image he created has become synonymous with urbanism of fifties.
During that time, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was designing glass and steel skyscrapers in the United States, inspired by prosperity and technological prowess. His outspoken contemporary, Le Corbusier, was making a city, inspired by the need to establish order and shelter in the aftermath of India's partition.
Birth of a Nation — Birth of a City
In the tumult that followed the division of Greater India in 1947, an estimated seven million families of Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims migrated between the two new nations of Pakistan and India.
Lahore, the beloved ancient city of the Punjabis and the former capital of undivided Punjab, was allocated to Pakistan. This created an urgent need to find a new seat of governance for the Indian state of Eastern Punjab: to make up for the psychological and emotional loss of Lahore and for housing the refugees.
The 90-foot- (27-meter-) high Open Hand monument, now one of Chandigarh's landmarks, is the Corbusian "signature," asserting the wholly alien architecture of the city.
Photo: Shama Shah
The High Court Building is one of three monumental buildings designed by Le Corbusier for the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh, India.
Photo: Shama Shah
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