“Let this be a new town, symbolic of the freedom of India, unfettered by the traditions of the past, an expression of the nation’s faith in the future” -Jawaharlal Nehru about Chandigarh.
The city of Chandigarh, the capital of 2 states(Punjab and Haryana), a union territory; is one of the first planned cities of a post-independent India. The city, located in the picturesque location at the foothills of the Shivalik ranges; derives its name from the nearby temple “Chandi Mandir”.Being an ambitious project envisioned by the First Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru, renowned Swiss-French architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret also known as Le Corbusier was appointed for its planning. The city was an experimentation of urban planning and an attempt to induce modernism in newly freed India.
Post the partition, Punjab was divided into two, East Punjab in India and West Punjab in Pakistan. Since Lahore, the former capital came under West Punjab, there was a need for a capital city, thus in 1949, Albert Meyers and Mathew Novicki were appointed to plan the same. They developed a fan-shaped master plan that emphasised on a clustered neighbourhood, central open spaces and segregated traffic control. However, Meyers discontinued the project after the untimely demise of Novicki in a plane crash thus leading to Le Corbusier taking up the project as part of CIAM (Congrès International d’Architecture Moderne) city. The brief for CIAM cities had divisions based on human functions such as work, living and leisure for its zoning; a policy for utopian cities. The measure adopted by the organisation was a response to the overcrowding and bad living conditions that emerged post the industrial revolution.
Corbusier developed a master plan which divided the city into sectors and introduced brutalist architecture with buildings such as Capital Complex, Place of Assembly, the Secretariat; to name a few. The master plan is an analogy of the human body with the capital being the head, city centre as the heart, green and open spaces for lungs, commercial area as the stomach, the educational sector as arms, road network being the circulatory system which comprises 7 types of roads known as the 7Vs.
A flaw in the measures by CIAM was that with the implementation of wide avenues and massive open spaces, the built environment was spread out, projecting a ghost town persona; an issue seen in Chandigarh. Also, the planning followed a hierarchy which was less pragmatic and more idealistic.
A significant structure, known as the open hand monument designed by Corbusier became the emblem of the city. It symbolises the philosophy “the hand to give and the hand to take; peace and prosperity and the unity of mankind’s”. Corbusier conceived the idea during a time when the world saw two devastating wars and catastrophes such as Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Indian partition; a time when the world engulfed by bloodshed and destruction, thus the monument intended as a hope for a better tomorrow.
Some of the other relevant projects are the rock garden by sculpture Nekchand, which started as a mere spare time project. The 40 acres entity besides Sukhna Lake consists of man-made waterfalls and intriguing sculptures made from scrap such as glasses, ceramics, sinks, pipes, wires thus redefining the concept of recycling.
The war memorial, dedicated to the brave martyrs of Indian, is unique for many reasons. The funds raised for construction was an initiative by the citizens led by the Indian Express Group of newspapers; the design for the monument was by two students of semester 9 pursuing architecture Shivani Gujlani and Nanaki Singh.
The Tower of Shadows was one of the prime projects of Le Corbusier in Chandigarh. It was designed to study solar movement to prove his study that sunlight is controlled in the corners of a building which, if dealt right, can even obtain low temperature at hot countries; a demonstration of brise -soleil architecture.
Le Corbusier had designed sector ten as the cultural hub of Chandigarh. The sector accommodates various institutions, museums, pavilions and theatres dedicated to cultural upliftment.
Being a joint capital to two vibrant states of India the city has grand celebrations during festivities such as Basant Panchgani, Baisakhi, rush era and the Chandigarh Carnival; a three-day platform for students to showcase their talents. Demographically, the city consists of a majority of Hindus and Sikhs from the states of Punjab and Haryana; linguistically a majority of Hindi and Punjabi speaking communities.
Chandigarh city continues to remain one of the key cities of India, especially being the country’s initial attempt to bring about a modernistic, planned approach especially with the involvement of pioneers such as Le Corbusier; thus an iconic project in the history of planning of cities.