The biggest question that comes to mind when re-considering Chandigarh, is have the architects designs for a better city actually worked? I asked many residents during my time there what their thoughts were on the city. The answer was always positive and Prime Minister Nehru was definitely successful in creating a civic and national pride! Curiously though, not too many residents had heard of Le Corbusier. They always mentioned the green parks first, followed by how easy it was to get anywhere. Designing for the automobile has been successful for those with automobiles, with one resident claiming it only took 15minutes by car to get anywhere within the city. Other residents mentioned its distinct lack of traffic jams. Another girl commented on how well built her house was. Others enjoyed the variety of things to do in the city. While, I was impressed with how the skyline stopped at the trees.
Statistics also show a favorable side to the modern city; the per capita income is three times higher the national average and the literacy rate is 73% has opposed to the national average of 59.5%.
The city also proudly boasts the largest number of police officers and has one of the highest safety records. I personally found that I was not touted to as much as in other parts of India and felt very safe walking alone at night.
Western visitors seeking India, will of course be disappointed with Chandigarh and all it’s suburban concrete. Modern architecture is no longer modern, and is no longer the popular style. Traveller’s usual delights of small quaint streets, curved walkways and chaotic markets are hard to find. But would we really enjoy living in those spaces? The introverted sectors and the strict grid are clearly not perfect but they do provide a certain ease of living. Chandigarh has aged in its six decades but the architects ideas about offering a better standard of living are still valid for today’s designers. If you judge a city from its residents, then Chandigarh is a success and a highly sought after address in India.
But being highly sought after has resulted in the population more than doubling what it was originally planned for and the poorest were never really catered for, leaving slums still within the cities boundaries. Satellite cities have sprouted up around Chandigarh, and there are definitely traffic jams within most of them and their roads into Chandigarh.
The modern architects strict decree has somewhat restricted the city as well. To build or make additions along certain roads, designs must be within the “frame control” to unify the cities facade. Of course, in India if you know the right person you can get your plans through regardless of their lack of “frame control”. Also, as mentioned in the last post some areas remain undefined but city restrictions prevent them from being developed.
But one of the nicest legacies Le Corbusier left the city was the founding of the Chandigarh College of Architecture. People have written that he was always the biggest critic of his own designs, and that like his open hand sculpture, when it came to designing he was open to give and open to receive. His strict design and decree for Chandigarh may be in opposition to this but as much as he was open he also liked to create rules. I believe he knew that Chandigarh would need to be adaptable and what better way to insure its future than by developing its own architects.
Forcing yourself to use restricted means is the sort of restraint that liberates inventing. It obliges you to make a kind of progress you can not even imagine in advance.
– Pablo Picasso
The challenge for future architects of Chandigarh is great but as the quote above states, restrictions are not necessarily a bad thing. After all, the city was created out of restrictions. It would be fascinating to see another group of visionary architects come and breathe new life into Chandigarh, continuing the city towards its original ambition to be …the last word in beauty, in simplicity and in standards of such comfort as it is our duty to provide to every human being.
I will end the Chandigarh series with my favourite Le Corbusier quote-
Life is right, and the architect is wrong.
– said towards the end of his life.