In an era of chaotic urbanisation in the country driven by ‘impatient capital’, Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh is planned to a rational grid yet human scale. The ‘City Beautiful’ promises to be both ‘Green and Smart’.
A genius like Le Corbusier, unequivocally acclaimed as 20th century’s greatest architect, urban planner, theorist, painter and more, is such a rich and deep reservoir of architectural ideas, forms, innovations and transformations that despite numerous existing publications, yet more can be mined.
As historians look back at his epic repertoire of work; if one single place epitomises his entire lifetime’s range of creativity more than any other, it is Chandigarh. After more than six and a half decades of phenomenal growth, Chandigarh planned for merely half a million people is today nearly 1.2 million and still growing. Quite ironically, the city by offering excellent quality life along with very good work, education and healthcare facilities has become a victim of its phenomenal success. It now faces humongous challenges of coping up with unbridled growth straining its already over stretched infrastructure, services, greenery – and yet preserving its unique architectural character and heritage.
The crowning glory for Chandigarh’s success story was stamped on 17 July 2016 when it’s Capitol Complex designed by Le Corbusier personally, was inscribed by UNESCO in its World Modern Heritage List as part of a trans-serial nomination of 17 of his works worldwide. In October 2015, the Chandigarh Administration organised a major international symposium ‘Celebrating Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh: 50 years after the master’ in which eminent architects, urban planners, historians and critics participated from all over the world and India.
The issues and reflections generated through presentations made by the participants, panel discussions and audience interactions led to a very valuable corpus of fresh understanding of Corbusier’s fathomless depth of genius. Such a rich material surely merited documentation, further comment and discourse. And thus was born the idea of the book Le Corbusier Rediscovered: Chandigarh and beyond released recently on 8 December 2017. While this book celebrates, explores and revisits many of Corbusier’s ideas – this is not done in isolation but in the context of time, space and with the perspective of the users of his buildings as well as the citizens of the city.
Not surprisingly Chandigarh was chosen for Government of India’s recent initiative on Smart City mission in the country. The insistence on order was a cardinal principle of modern town planning. Chandigarh’s grid iron layout represents self-sufficient urban module that can be repeated multiple times to create the total urban form. The sector module of 800X1200 meters in Chandigarh creates neighborhood units for a population ranging between 5,000 to 20,000 inhabitants.
Each sector was conceived as a low density, green and functional model, well equipped with its own maintenance organizations, access to provisions, schools, and domestic services. “It is not surprising that in Chandigarh’s entry for the Smart City Challenge, the Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh mentioned the city’s planning as the most significant opportunity. The smart city of Chandigarh can execute an ambitious plan to replicate and scale the integrated interventions planned for Sectors 17, 22, 35 and 43, into the whole urban domain”, writes Jagan Shah in one of the essays in the book.
In an era of chaotic urbanisation in the country driven by ‘impatient capital’ Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh is planned to a rational grid yet human scale. The ‘City Beautiful’ promises to be both ‘Green and Smart’.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
The author is former principal of Chandigarh College of Architecture and co-edited 'Le Corbusier Rediscovered: Chandigarh and Beyond' launched in December 2017. He is currently a member of the ‘Chandigarh Heritage Committee’ that oversees all heritage issues of the city.