ARCHITECTURAL WORK of LE CORBUSIER in|
There occurred a novel case in the UNESCO's World Heritage Sites List that plural works of a single architect were registered together in one case. Its title is "The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement". It includes 17 sites through 7 countries as mentioned below:
Villa Savoye and the Chapel at Ronchamp
To the first place when France was preparing the application to register the works of Le Corbusier (1887 -1965) to UNESCO (a committee was established for that in 2004 based on Foundation Le Corbusier), it intended to make the list contain not only his most important works in France but also many that show his worksf diversity and development. So, it appealed even to other countries, which hold Le Corbusierfs work(s), to participate in the cooperative application. This is the beginning of an exception of a single registration including many countries.
Japan responded to the appeal and participated in 2007 with the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. Though India has ample works of Le Corbusier in Chandigarh and Ahmadabad, it decided at first to participate only with the works of Chandigarh as epublic buildingsf of Le Corbusier. Although India once withdrew their support, which was said because India had not yet established the organization to preserve modern cities, after much meandering India ultimately re-participated in 2014 with Chandigarh. Finally, this case was registered to UNESCO in 2016 with the above-named 17 assets through 7 countries.
This chapter treats Le Corbusierfs architectural works in Chandigarh, not only in the Capitol Complex but also in the city, even including some other related architectsf works.
Books on Chandigarh
The name Le Corbusier is so extensively known in the world that even outsiders of art and culture have heard his name as one of the greatest of modern architects, and if you go to a nearby library you will find his own writings and many books on his life and work. A great number of books have been published even in Japan only. As it is so easy to know about Le Corbusier, this chapter omits his biography, introducing his works in Chandigarh based on the photographs I have took there and the drawings from his Oeuvre Complète. However, I am going to write here about my long-standing concern about his name.
Although I knew that eLe Corbusierf was his pseudonym, while his real name was Charles Edouard Jeanneret, I had been wondering why he had took such a mysterious name as his pseudonym, for eLef is a French definite article, corresponding to eThef in English. In English, there is hardly a personfs name that has had a definite article in front, so as in French. When a Japanese professor, who taught French in bygone days, first met the name Le Corbusier, he did not consider that a name of an architect but that of a construction company!
A custom of frequently putting definite articles on personsf names is seen in Arabic. For instance, the creator of the Ayyubid dynasty, Al-Malik al-Nasir Salah al-Din, known as Saladin by Europeans as the Sultan who repelled the crusaders, had as many as three definite articles eAlfs in his name. Historically noted persons seem to tend to have them, because when a common noun is converted to a proper noun by adding a definite article, it could become more symbolic.
Jean Jenger, once the chairman of Le Corbusier Foundation, wrote that Charles Edouard Jeanneret made his pseudonym Le Corbusier from one of his maternal ancestors, Le Corbezier who had lived in Belgium. Among his numerous ancestors, did he choose that name with a definite article to give a symbolic effect?
In my view, Charles Edouard Jeanneret attiring himself in the symbolic pseudonym eLe Corbusierf in his thirties would have been a similar act to past Japanese artists or men of letters, such as the famous art historian, Kakuzo Okakura, who took the egagof (graceful appellation) eTenshinf, meaning Heavenfs Heart. Now, both Le Corbusier and Tenshin Okakura are never called by their banal real names.
Master plan by Albert Mayer & an early plan by Le Corbusier
In the following year, the first prime minister of the Republic of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, decided the construction of the new capital of Punjab, selecting the site based on the committeefs investigations of availability. As this site embraced several villages and a Hindu temple of Chandi (Moon Goddess), the forthcoming new city was designated as Chandigarh. Nehru said:
Although Nehru, who studied at Cambridge University in England, seems to have borne the concept of garden cities theorized by Ebenezer Howard, he entrusted the planning of the new city to an American planner-architect, Albert Mayer (1897-1981), as somewhat of a reaction against British architects who had designed most colonial buildings in India, the most representative of which was Edwin Lutyensf New Delhi.
Albert Mayer studied at Columbia University and MIT, made efforts to American housing in the early 20th century with Lewis Mumford and Henry Wright, and worked as a consultant of city-planning in Israel.
Mayer, acquainted with Nehru, was formally commissioned to make the city plan of Chandigarh by the government of Punjab at the end of 1949, in his early fifties. He positively relished the good opportunity to be able to plan a new city, and he produced the master plan of the city after five months.
Early Plan by Le Corbusier & later Map
Due to the sudden change of situation, some members of the Chandigarh committee of the Government of Punjab went to Europe shortly after in November to seek new suitable architects. The first candidate, Auguste Perret, was not able to leave France because of the reconstruction of the city of Le Havre (1945-64), which would be inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005.
Le Corbusier, already 63 years old by this time, did not accept the residence for three years in India requested by the government of India, partly because of the probable Indian low fee, instead asking three collaborators to reside in India. One was his cousin-architect, Pierre Jeanneret (1896-1967), and the other two were the British architect couple, Edwin Maxwell Fry (1899-1987) and Jane Beverly Drew (1911-96).
Pierre Jeanneret was Swiss and graduated from Geneva School of Arts to become an architect, like Le Corbusier, who was also Swiss born (later naturalized in France), and graduated from a school of arts in La Chaux-de-Fonds, his native city. Though Pierre was nine years younger than his cousin, he worked as Le Corbusierfs partner in their cooperative office in Paris for 17 years. Therefore, among the eight volumes of the chronological eOeuvre Complètef the first four and a half volumes are books of their joint-named works.
Maxwell Fry, three years younger still than Pierre Jeanneret, was one of the pillars propelling Modernism on architecture in Britain, being on friendly terms with Le Corbusier through the CIAM (International Congress of Modern Architecture). Like Le Corbusier, he was also active in a variety of fields such as architecture, city-planning, painting, and poetry. He had been in Ghana, Africa, with his wife, Jane Drew as architects and planners for many projects.
Succeeding Mayerfs original concept for the Chandigarh plan, Le Corbusier modified various points and incorporated his own ideas on cityfs planning. Although it has been thought more often than not that he created his completely individual plan for Chandigarh, he actually succeeded the essence of Mayerfs plan partly because of time constraints, including the division of the city into sectors in a grid pattern, penetrating them with greenbelts, as well as carrying over the locations of commercial, industrial, and administration centers.
The largest change might have been in the making of the Capitol Complex, which bears the legislation, administration, and jurisdiction of the city, making it more monumental as the face of the city in the far northeast of the city. Since in that year, 1951 Le Corbusier published gThe Modulorh, the theoretical system of architectural scales based on the sizes of a human body, he could have also seen the form of the city like a human body. Jane Drew would liken Chandigarh to a human body afterward, calling the Capitol Complex eheadf, the city center eheartf, the industrial center earmf, the university area ebrainf, and so on.
Among the sectors of Chandigarh, the far northeastern one, which embraces the Capitol Complex, is referred to as Sector 1, from which to the southeast all sectors were numbered in regular order. On the southeastern side of Sector 1 was made into a large artificial lake, Sukhna, by the dedicated efforts of the chief engineer of Punjab State, P.L. Varma, who had taken part in the Chandigarh plan from the start, damming up a tributary of Sukhna River flowing from northeastern mountains. This lake has been greatly enriching the city life in Chandigarh.
The Capitol Complex and its plan
Le Corbusierfs keenest interest seems to have been to design a monumental Capitol Complex rather than planning the town itself for Indian inhabitants. Since Matthew Nowicki had not reached the phase of decisive building-design except for making some idea-sketches, Le Corbusier was able to design them without restraint.
Among them, many people might wonder what the Governorfs Garden is, which was drawn in the plan of the Park of the Capitol by Le Corbusier, but he did not leave any concrete sketches for that. It can be said that his intention would have followed Edwin Lutyens who made the plan of New Delhi, designing the Viceroy's House (now Rashtrapati Bhavan), which is larger than the Versailles Palace, and constructing an extensive Mughal garden at its rear for the Governor-General of India (Viceroy).
The three collaborators (Jeanneret, Fry, and Drew) ran their own offices to supervise the construction work, and to design other facilities, in Chandigarh from 1951, Fry up to 1954, Drew up to 1956, and Jeanneret until 1965 (for 14 years!) when he went back to France due to illness and subsequent treatment. When Jeanneret died two years after his return, his ashes were brought to Chandigarh and scattered on Sukhna Lake, following the Indian custom.
They assembled young Indian architects for the Chandigarh Capital Project Team for detail design and supervision, serving also the function of architectural education. Needless to say, Le Corbusier came to Chandigarh every year, staying for about one month to check every design and construction, and also to respond to the questions by the design team.
About 90 buildings designed on location by three architects, Pierre Jeanneret, Maxwell Fry, and Beverly Drew, were later compiled in a large book "Documenting Chandigarh, vol. 1" by the then assistant professor in the School of Architecture of Chandigarh, Kiran Joshi, and published in 1999 in Ahmadabad. It is an indispensable book for those who want to fully know not only Le Corbusierfs works but also the city-planning and modern architecture of Chandigarh.
The design process and drawings of each building of Chandigarh by Le Corbusier himself were recorded in detail in his chronological gOeuvre Complèteh, from vol.5 to vol.8. As for the objective history of development of the plan and construction of Chandigarh, Ravi Kalia, professor of the City College of New York, wrote very minutely about this in his book "Chandigarh, The Making of an Indian City" in 1987.
The predetermined population of Chandigarh was 0.15 million for the initial stage and half a million at the final, but the city was later expanded to the southwest, adding two lines of sectors, having now reached to 0.75 million (1995). The planning of these housing sectors and designs of condominiums and apartments, schools, and other public buildings were the most important missions for the three resident architects on lacation.
Here I will quote the description about Chandigarh from my book gThe Guide to the Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent.h (1996, TOTO Publishing co.):
It was more than 20 years ago that I wrote this article. The guidebook in which was written efailuref was Lonely Planetfs gIndiah. eEstrangement from the current social level of Indiaf means that, for example, a transportation and road system mainly focusing on car traveling was planned, but actually, cars hardly run on the roads of Chandigarh and most people went by bicycle. Those who did not have had to walk long way along the broad asphalted roads under a blazing sun.
You might say that the case of Chandigarh could draw parallels to that of the first communist revolution, which did not occur in a mature European country but in the undeveloped country of Russia, therefore it failed. As a matter of course, India has greatly changed during the following 20 years, dissolving those estrangements.
In the far north Sector 1 is the Capitol Complex. Though having unconsciously written efar northf, since the grid road pattern in Chandigarh leans about 45 degrees from the north-south axis, consequently making most buildings follow it, in fact Sector 1 is in the far northeast of the city. Its reason is that Albert Mayer did not set the city-axis in north-south but in nearly northeast-southwest after his minute examination of Chandigarhfs topographical condition and natural features, and Le Corbusier took over it.
What is eCapitolf? Ancient Rome was encircled with seven hills, the highest of which was Capitolino Hill, where important temples were constructed. Later in the Renaissance, Michelangelo designed the Piazza del Campidoglio (the Square of Capitoline) there in 1538. The Senatorio Palace in front of this trapezoidal square is the current city hall of Rome. This place has been the center of Rome, from which the political center of a country or a state or the parliament building came to be referred to as Capitol or Capital in English or French. The most renowned is the US Parliament building in Washington DC., the area around which is called Capitol Hill.
Le Corbusier also called the governmental facilities at the cephalic place of Chandigarh the Park of the Capitol or simply Capitol, seemingly following Albert Mayer and Matthew Nowicki, who had designated it as Capitol Complex, though Edwin Lutyens did not call the governmental area (including the Viceroyfs house) on Raisina Hill of New Delhi with that appellation.
As Sector 1 has no housing district, these governmental buildings stand at a long distance from each other in a vast plains-like area. Such a governmental center of a city can be seen only in modern planned cities like Chandigarh or Brasilia.
When I visited this city for the first time more than 40 years ago, I was able to walk leisurely around this idyllic governmental park thanks to the then world situation, so to say, a time of fleeting peace in the world, settling down disputes in various parts of the world and suffering fewer terrorist incidents.
The Secretariat Building and its roof garden
As long as one sees only photos in books without actually going to Chandigarhfs Capitol Park, one apt to judge the Secretariat building to be less important architecturally because of its form looking as a simple slab-type office building, in comparison with the daringly sculptural High Court and Parliament Building.
As a matter of course, most parts of its facade are ebrise-soleilf (sunshade), which function to control the tropical weather in Chandigarh, but those made of concrete feel too heavy for travelers who come from industrial countries. In contrast to this, at Shri Aurobindo Ashram Dormitory in Pondicherry in south India, which was designed by Antonin Raymond 20 years earlier, much lighter movable ebrise-soleilf was created using asbestos.
The rooftop of this Secretariat building was an actualization of the second item of Le Corbusierfs 'les 5 points d'une architecture nouvelle', Roof Garden, though being a little too long and narrow, along with that at the Unite dfHabitation. It might be better to call it a ehanging garden' rather than a roof garden due to the insufficiency of greenery. In the aforementioned temporal peaceful epoch of 40 years ago, Indian tourists made long queues to take elevators going up to the hanging garden, where they exclaimed admiration at this rare experience in their life.
In my student years, the Chandigarh project was proclaimed to be the bible of modern architecture and planning. The theories and methods of international architecture and functional city-planning that CIAM (Congrès International d'Architecture Moderne) advocated against the preceding architecture based on historical styles and city-planning depending on formal city-shapes and fine views were not given a stage for practice in Europe. The large-scale attainments as new cities of modernism were only Chandigarh in India and Brasilia in Brazil.
Incidentally, it is the Parliament Building that is located on the east of the Secretariat, being also a large edifice of a square of side 100 meters. The most conspicuous feature of it is the huge concrete structure independently standing on the side of the High Court, looking like huge eaves or a long umbrella, functioning as a kind of sunshade or shelter from the rain. The volume 6 of the chronological Oeuvre Complète shows that it had been much thinner and supported with fewer columns in its early stages, but in accordance with the progress of design and construction of the High Court and the Chapelle of Ronchamp, its design escalated into a huge independent roof structure.
The Parliament Building and its assembly hall
In this period, Le Corbusierfs main concern would have been to create monumental and sculptural works of architecture more than anything else. These rolled-up concrete eaves influenced the works of Japanese architects, especially Kunio Maekawa (1905-86, a disciple of Le Corbusier), who designed such rolled-up concrete eaves from early modest ones in the Kyoto Kaikan to a later colossal one in the Tokyo Metropolitan Festival Hall.
The great portal and one of its painted panels
Another feature of the Parliament Building is its assembly hall, with a circular plan and wall of hyperbolic paraboloid, inserted inside the square building. Its novel-shaped upper half breaks through the roof to the sky and its top is cut aslant with fixed glass for lighting of the hall. This formation can be said to be much more developed than the Matthew Nowichifs former simple dome scheme.
Unless during the session one can be guided inside by a member of staff, looking around the fantastic lobby and unique assembly hall with wall of hyperbolic paraboloid, but photography is prohibited.
Le Corbusier planned a larg, yet long and narrow sort of park on the east of the Parliament Building, at the far mountain-side place of which was to be built the governorfs palace, and in the city-side is a geometric hill. Between the two were posthumously constructed the eTower of Shadowf and the eMartyrs' Memorialf, though his intention for these facilities is rather difficult to grasp.
The Tower of Shadow and Martyrs' Memorial
The Martyrs' Memorial does not look monumental enough, only letting one go down the spiral ramp to the small central sunken square where there is nothing. It seems to desire furnishing with a sculpture or something like that. Even with the martyrs being not clear, it reminds me of the people who fought against the Indian army (commanded by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi) to the death in gunfighting in the premises of the Golden Temple in Amritsal, for the sake of achieving the independence of Punjab from India, though in failure. However, the memorial monument of such insurgent people could not have occupied a place in the park of Capitol of the state government.
To the east of this memorial is eLa Main Ouvertef (Open Hand), which is familiar to Corbusians. Consulting his Oeuvre Complète, we know that he left many sketches of Open Hands, seeming to intend to make it the symbol of Chandigarh, despite not writing distinctly about its meaning. He only said that the image spontaneously occurred in his mind on one occasion in Paris, and he had cultivated that image for a long time, sometimes creating paintings or sculptures based on that. The largest one was erected in 1986 in Chandigarh by contributions called for around the world at the suggestion of an Indian architect for the 20th year after Le Corbusierfs passing away.
When the English edition of my book gThe Guide to the Architecture of the Indian Subcontinenth (1996, Toto Shuppan Co.) was published in India, I was invited to its press release. I went to India to attend the release and lectured at various places on the occasion. I was especially welcomed by the Chandigarh-Punjab Chapter of the Indian Institute of Architects, and was presented a commendation plaque, a shield that was a 1/100 scale replica of the Open Hand, which is the symbol of the Chandigarh Chapter, and a book of Le Corbusier that had been published long ago by the government of Punjab.
The "Open Hand" Monument and a commendation shield
Despite being located at the southeast end of the Capitol Complex, the High Court was in fact first designed, constructed, and completed in 1956. It seems to be the edifice that pleased Le Corbusier more than any other in Chandigarh in terms of architectural form and composition. The building reminds us of the Chapelle of Ronchamp, which was designed almost in the same period. The sculptural expression of the chapel, inspired by freewheeling shapes of African mosques, probably had a back and forth influence with the High Court in their respective design process.
The most conspicuous element is its great concrete roof like a long continuous umbrella designed to cope with tropical weather. It was expected to cut off the invasion of solar heat, but it is not clear how cost effective it was to set that roof, for it is not negligible that an umbrella made of concrete, which has a high thermal capacity, radiates heat downward.
Like at the Secretariat Building, this facade does not simply arrange brise-soleil homogeneously, but punctuates it asymmetrically, with three wall-pillars standing in between effectively, on the rear of which is an open eramp shaftf, producing a varied half exterior space. Going up and down this shaft, one can experience this space as if suspended midair, looking towards the Parliament House and the Secretariat building in the distance.
The buildings of the Capitol Complex are fundamentally made of undressed concrete (béton brut) inside and outside, so it was too noisy in the courts due to the reverberating sounds, disturbing the proceeding trials. Le Corbusier therefore, had tapestries made for sound absorption and hung them over each courtfs wall. All of them were weaved based on his drawings in 1955 and 1956 at studios in Kashmir. They amounted to 650 square meters in total.
Rear side of the High Court and its Lobby
This large building of the High Court has only one great court, yet it is 12 meters by 15, and eight small courts, so another building including many courtrooms was built late on its east, connecting with the main building. It looks like completely heterogeneous design, in spite of being said to have been based on Le Corbusierfs scheme.
As stated above, all buildings of the Capitol Complex are fundamentally composed with right-angle geometry, except for some curved lines like rolled-up concrete eaves or a floating roof over continuous arches, as does the city plan of Chandigarh. There are people who cannot endure such a geometrical environment. As if representing those feelings, a freewheeling sculpture garden, the eRock Gardenf, came on the stage in 1976 as a counterbalance to Le Corbusierfs functional and geometric city.
Its creator, Neck Chand (1924-2015) was not a professional sculptor but a roads inspector for the Public Works Department, but he assembled scrapped materials in the city to build, step by step, numerous sculptures. Such creative amateur work is similar to the postman Ferdinand Chevalfs ePalais Idealf (1879-1924) in France and the tile-mason Simon Rodiafs eWatts Towersf (1921-54) in the U.S.A., yet Neck Chand developed a much more extensive site than the others.
The Rock Garden and Lake Club
When going further to the southeast from Sector 1, one gets to Le Corbusierfs small yacht club building locating in front of the artificial lake, Sukhna, named Lake Club. It was built in 1964, a year before his death. Its courtyard is surrounded with orderly concrete frames, in which is inserted a free contoured restaurant. Now the club has been much extended.
In the city, Sector 10 embraces cultural facilities, which include Le Corbusierfs Art School, Government Museum and Exhibition Pavilion, and Shivdatt Sharmafs Museum of Science/Evolution of Life, in a line along a district road. The Government Museum is a piece of a trilogy in the concept of the eMuseum for Unlimited Growthf along with the Sanskar Kendra Museum in Ahmadabad and The National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. Its interior atmosphere also resembles the other two.
The Government Museum and Exhibition Pavilion
Based on the idea that Chandigarh is a city of modern art, apart from the university, the College of Art and College of Architecture were independently established from early on, following the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Both schools were designed in almost the same form by Le Corbusier, yet the College of Architecture is not located here but on the campus of Punjab University to the west.
The College of Art and College of Architecture
Sector 17, diagonally opposite the cultural zone, is the eCity Centerf embracing the market zone (shopping and commercial area), and its neighbor on the south is the central bus terminal. All the market buildings have the same rude concrete columns and balconies continuously and rather tediously. It seems to need somewhat more attractive edifices.
The Central State Library and Market Area
For example, at the center of Sector 22 is a movie theater designed by Maxwell Fry, Cinema Kiran, which has become the symbol of the sector, a simple but captivating piece of modern architecture.
In the extreme west of the city is the campus of Punjab University, one of the top-level universities in India, ranking with Delhi University and the like. The College of Architecture is in Sector 12 of its premises, and in Sector 14 are the Gandhi Bhawan (memorial hall for Gandhian philosophy) designed by Pierre Jeanneret and the Student Centre by B.P. Mathur, and Sector 11 has many college buildings, such as the College for Men by Maxwell Fry.
The Student Centre and Gandhi Bhawan of Panjab University
In around 1965 when the construction of Chandigarh was nearly completed, criticism of Modernism was rising in young generation, against its uniformity, tedium, severance from tradition, and so on. Although the nomenclature of those kinds of movements as ePost Modernismf would be much later, Chandigarh could be said to be certainly a non-Indian city cut off from tradition, just like the colonial city of Goa.
Finally, in order to know the reality of Indian cities comprehensively, it is advisable to pay attention to the squatters that extend on both sides of the approaching road from Delhi, just before entering the city of Chandigarh. These are unlawfully occupied housing areas, self-constructed of earth and scrapped material, for the low-income people who cannot live in the planned city. The majority of rickshaw-wallahs would be living here with their families. People who live in the spacious garden city are mainly wealthy class citizens and government officials. Such a strong gap between the living environments is not only an administrative problem in Chandigarh but also that which overall India embraces, and it appears in its sharpest form here.
Squatters spread in the suburbs of Chandigarh
The citizens in the city are still proud of this city, though not as deeply as the erstwhile boastful conscious to be residing in the state-of-the art city in the world, while the low-income people living in the squatters outside the city would have another feeling of alienation. It is certain that Le Corbusier, who immutably applied the method of city-planning in Europe to India, was not the kind of architect as Egyptian Hassan Fathy, who advocated and practiced eArchitecture for the Poorf, the title of the book he wrote.
( 2017/ 08 /01)
-- About the works of modern architects in India, see the page
-- About Le Corbusier's museum works, see the page