Vision Unrealised

Due to a lack of enforcement of the building laws, people show an utter disregard for building codes. Carefully designed commercial buildings are being defaced with unlawful advertisements and hoardings in ever-increasing numbers. This needs to be rectified to save Chandigarh’s image.

The original Tapestry at entrance of Punjab Vidhan Sabha, now being re-constructed. Courtesy: Le Corbusier uvre ComplŠte, Volume 8,ÿ published by Willy Boesiger, Les Edition d’Architecture Artemis, Zurich

Retaining villages in the second phase of development was a grave mistake as the building codes could not be applied to the existing villages. If at all, they should have been developed into model villages. Colonies and super-structures are being built in violation of the Periphery Control Act, thereby depleting the green-belt and burdening Chandigarh. The ever-increasing inflow of migrants unlawfully occuping public land in and around the city is a problem. One-third of the population living in unhygienic conditions in slums needs attention. It is a challenge as well as an opportunity to settle those who provide essential services to the city. We are not conscious of our sacred heritage and historic works of Corbusier. These works of great architectural significance have to be protected and preserved for posterity.

Not only the Capitol Complex, containing the master architect’s works, remain incomplete but even the buildings designed by him have been tampered with thoughtlessly. The crowning monument at the apex of the city was to be the Museum of Knowledge in place of the Raj Bhavan, both designed by Corbusier. The Museum of Knowledge, as envisaged by Corbusier, was intended to be a scientific tool using audio-visual techniques and cybernetics to aid in arriving at effective decisions within resources. Two such museums of nature (on different subjects) exist in Paris and Corbusier must have consulted a number of specialists before making the proposal which he pursued vigorously during his life-time. This project has remained unrealised despite the fact that a top-level committee of technical experts in the field appointed by the Government of India recommended the project in the mid-seventies.

Martyrs’ Memorial in the Capitol Complex remains incomplete for want of missing sculptures. Full-scale models of the sculptures were prepared and are lying with the P.W.D. Of the other two projects conceived by Corbusier, the 11-storey office building (originally meant for Post and Telegraph office) in Sector 17 City Centre and the Sports Complex on the eastern side of the Sukhna Lake remain unrealised.

Chandigarh was not built by imported building materials or sophisticated machinery. The city is alt hand-made and is very beautiful. It contains the maximum number of modern-classical buildings.

Even the furniture and wall-hangings (tapestries) for the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Legislative Assembly Building and the Civil Secretariat designed by Corbusier were neglected and allowed to deteriorate. These should have been restored and tapestries of great aesthetic value displayed . It is a matter for consideration if the tattered tapestries or broken furniture in large quantities can be displayed as valuable heritage. UNESCO has declared, after following stringent criteria, some cities as heritage property. There were suggestions to get Chandigarh the same status.

Tourists from the world over will visit Corbusier’s Capitol Complex and his place of work in Chandigarh the same was as they flock to the Acropolis at Athens (Greece).

‘ The writer is a former Chief Architect of Chandigarh

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