…a revisit to Chandigarh…

One must admit that no other city in India would pull architects as does Chandigarh. Chandigarh the “The City Beautiful”, indeed a beautiful city, with beautiful architecture, jolly go people and such good looking girls!!! Chandigarh is probably the most talked about cities. I still remember the excitement I felt when I first decided to visit this city by Le Corbusier; and well Le Corbusier was like a hero for me at that time (and to an extend today also). During the first visit as a student, sitting in the train I was sad about just one thing, that I don’t have a camera, and oh yes, while coming back I was equally glad that I didn’t had one; years later my second visit with a camera proved me right that an architect should never travel with a camera.

The name Chandigarh brings in the image of the open hand…..open to receive…. open to give…… an amazing piece of art. One could sit in hours watching the hand rotate to the wind. It seems as if the High Court on one side and the Assembly hall on the other side, and the secretariat at the back, stands in appreciation of the open hand, which reflects the sublime message of the democratic world that all the three pillars are for the people……..if only people are let in? The capitol complex as it is known is an amazing piece of art and architecture, but a bad example of urban design. The place which is supposed to be the center of attraction for the visitors and the Chandigarh walas is deprived to its own citizens due to its cantonment like environment. There are more policemen than there are civilian visitors. Yes! Security is a concern, but keeping more and more of the troops can in no way increase the security of a place.…..this reminds me of the comment by Australian Architect Lawrence Nield, who said that “…the concept was great, with the kind of spaciousness that’s incorporated. But then the poor man is nothing more than an intruder here. The construction of a cricket stadium at this site would probably have lent the complex more life and charm”…. It may sound like a joke, but visiting this place makes it as the only viable idea!, there is enough space and may be cricket is the only thing that can attract Indians to any place in the world…and may be it could do the wonder that Le Corbusier’s murals and embossments were not able to do. The vast open space may look good in photographs, but it is horrible to have huge open areas in a place where sun is overly stooped in. There are trees only at the boundary of the complex and the rest is an open land for the sun to play its game…. May be it would have been amazing if build something like this in some European country with much cooler climate, but the Corbusier who devised ‘Bruise Soleil’ and the ‘Parasol Roof’ for India, completely ignored the open areas, or may be purposefully left it so as to give a better visual dominance to his buildings. What ever be the fate of the city, but the buildings are amazing, it still has the charm as it had when I first saw them in books, probably the charm of his architecture hides the flaws in the city….

Corbusier’s architecture is seen at capitol complex and then at the museum complex. The museum complex is at much smaller scale than that of the other one. Architecture of the museum complex is amazing, just that it over-powers the exhibits there, and amazingly the main museum is almost similar to the one at Ahmadabad. The kind of lighting inside is too good, and the best part is that it merges so well with the artificial light; it’s not easy to distinguish between the two. Museum is filled in with art works and that makes the complex come to life, but the lack of hangout space makes this also less visited by the people. Other than architecture there are two things that amazed me the most, first the city museum which tells everything about the evolution of the city to its current situation, and other one is the natural science museum. Science museum amazed me because almost every museum I visited had a board ‘please don’t touch’, but here I have seen boards saying ‘Please touch and feel the fossils’…. Indeed amazing!!!

More than Corbusier’s architecture, there is one thing that attracts the outsiders and the insiders alike, is the rock garden. An awesome garden…. Suddenly one man’s scrap business seems much better than 60 years of modern blah blah…..And above all there is the Sukhna Lake, may be the only thing that works as per the desires of its creator. Evenings it’s crowded with people and this is when one feels that there actually exists a crowd in Chandigarh too….

The city as it is has no charm other than the architecture of Le Corbusier and others and the visitor places like the lake and many gardens. Buildings in general look very boring, the hotel looks like an office building and a school looks like both of them…. All the buildings are similar, rather than uniting the city, it makes the seemingly logical plan very confusing, one cannot go by keeping some landmark, and everything looks the same.

Sector 17, which is the commercial sector, is almost deserted during day time. Commercial centers are to be the most vibrant of the areas, but it’s all dull down with exposed concrete and brick.

Though at night the darkness subdues the architecture and the colorful lights highlight the fountains…. Its life for the youth at night….. pubs, bars and shops…..only thing you need is a heavy pocket….truly as emphasis was by Khushwant Singh by saying that the tagline should change form “The City Beautiful” to “The City of Joy”.

Though one can find so many flaws and the city is subjected to so much of criticism, but still, Le Corbusier’s city has let India project itself on the global map as a modern country, the way Nehru dreamt about. It is one of the largest urban complexes of the post-war era, and the most successful experiment of the twentieth century….. at least it has let many think in a different way…. And many of us still feel visiting Chandigarh as a pilgrimage…..what more can a city expect….


14 thoughts on “…a revisit to Chandigarh…

  1. hi nippo…i think u have made ur mind before hand to criticize the city… like always it was fun reading u criticizing something(after a prob a year time)… but this time i think ur par below the level of an architect and just making statements like a ordinary guy…i feel classics will have lesser audience than other in a field….a part of the bad face of the city can be because the way things(adm. or policies by govt) moving now…. i feel u hadnt given much thought about it… ur blog would have been more better if u can compare among any city that was planned during the same time chad. was planned…
    anyway i was good to read this….hopping to read more of this kind from u….

  2. …Angrezzz..kalakaaaar…dis is gud….nvr…thgt…u’ll come comeup wid dis…….came in as a surprise…./..great…/

  3. heyy!!!…goood..really good to see someone among us to start off with things like this…even I got inspired to do something like this…and its a blend of literature of architecture and travel perspectives…
    keep going…with more like this….

  4. Sorry for the delay….Nowadays i hardly get time for all these….

    Very glad to see the post….Even after one year I cud see the same fire within u….The inner flame to burn every piece of work in constructive criticism…….gud….

    I wud like to disagree with sathya bcz architecture is 99% common sense and u need to think like an ordinary man if u want to solve their issues……And I am very happy to see u walking barefoot……..Kudos for that……..

    …….Chandigarh has failed to address the common people..no doubt in that…….And I remember Ajay commenting that………Globalisation has reached us for the first time through the urban design of Chandigarh ……which nobody has actually realised……
    …trying to forcefully fit us into the international standards……..

    Looking forward to read more from u…..

  5. you know,,I can imaging myself that I was with you in your trip… 😉
    was so nice,,hope you have more trips and cmpare them,,I think it would be nice…..

  6. first of all i am sorry to be so late to comment on, even after the day by day pressure and gtalk threatenings from the narrator 🙂

    being so illitrate about architecture theories blah blahsss, i would only like to apriciate your patients. we all like to observe things but few of us express it through any means and it will be more sweeter if it came from an unexpected origin.
    everybody will now be surprised about me to call you as “unexpected origin”. but i believe you simply as a slow moving”200 cc pulsar bike” … just accelerate it and go ahead my dear..

    let me qot lil bit regarding the article n dnt ever try expecting it as an architecture fundah..tnx.. first of all, i dont know why you feel camera as a heavy luggage while traveling? for my consideration and thoughts, its a better weapon for architects to observe and re-examine things, if you wer been to the place n feel n click, then photos wont misguide us.
    secondly, wots d reason behind your change in sense to le-courbusier (hope the spelling is correct) after completing 5yrs of study n 1 yr proffessional practise?

    whatever he build in 1980’s is still modern architectute nw…

    • Hey! Aneesh, Oh atlast you commented 😉

      Da taking a camera to a place means we will be busy taking photos rather than seeing and feeling that place.

      About Le Corbusier…… he still is a hero for me…..I still love his Architecture….. but as a city planner or urban designer he was a complete failure…..his architecture is modern, but his city plans are ancient…..

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