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Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh

Bryan Boyer and Hans Gustafsson both pointed me to Chandigarh, the only of Le Corbusier’s urban planning schemes that were executed. Hans writes that when the province of Punjab was divided (in 1947), the part that now belongs to India needed a new capital, as the previous capital Lahore was situated in the Pakistani part. So a new city was planned, and Le Corbusier was commissioned for this job.

Bryan writes that although “organized within an orthogonal grid [it] is not allowed to be overbearing.” I guess what he refers to is that the grid follows the landscape (see the map below) instead of being a strict rectilinear plan.

Map of Chandigarh

What’s interesting is that two American architects and planners were intended for the job, but when one of them was killed in a plane crash, the other resigned.1 The architects were Albert Mayer and Matthew Nowicki. According to the Chandigarh website, these were inspired by the Garden City movement and associated with Lewis Mumford. Their plan

reflected the American architects’ desire to deliberately avoid the sterility of a geometric grid in favour of a loosely curving system, [which] certainly had the overtones of the “romantic picturesque” tradition of a Garden City.

This sounds far away from Le Corbusier, although he does draw from the Garden City movement as well. But he fiercly rejects the curvilinear city plan (in The City of Tomorrow and its Planning) so it would be interesting to read how he could get the job.

Some things I found about this, but haven’t read yet:

Hans mentions that some parts of Chandigarh has turned into slums, possibly because of flaws in the plan.

1 See Robert C. Emmett’s Guide to the Albert Mayer Papers on India which contains a chapter on the Chandigarh plan.

The above was posted to my personal weblog on July 4, 2004. My name is Peter Lindberg and I am a thirtysomething software developer and dad living in Stockholm, Sweden. Here, you’ll find posts in English and Swedish about whatever happens to interest me for the moment.

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