Chandigarh is a grand success story in the annals of modern architecture. A revolutionary experiment which came to fruition with the juxtaposition of a great vision that the India's first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharla Nehru nurtured, and the profound genius of a French architect Le Corbusier and his team.
Today Chandigarh is 114 square kilometers of invigorating aesthetics. It combines elegant architectural forms with wide tree lined avenues, green belts and gardens and offers a pleasant living experience to its residents and visitors.
The Concept: Chandigarh was conceived amidst the post partition crisis. Work began on this project in the year 1950. Pandit Nehru on his first visit to the city remarked: "Let it be the first large expression of our creative genius flowering on our newly earned freedom."
Undoubtedly the city has grown to symbolize Modern India and has earned for itself, and deservedly so, the acronym of the 'City Beautiful'.
The city, with its chequered mesh of the grid-iron plan, nestles in the foothills of the majestic Shivalik hill range in the north. Two rivulets - the Patiali - ki - Rao and the Sukhna Choe - bound its north - west and south - west limits, respectively. The master plan divides the city into rectangular modules called sectors, each measuring 800 to 1,200 meters with self - sufficient shopping complexes and other facilities.
Le Corbusier planned the city as a living organism, with the Capitol Complex in the north representing the head , the city center the heart , the open spaces the lungs , the network of roads as the circulatory system , the industrial area the viscera , and the cultural and educational belts, the intellect .
The conception of the city has been formulated on the basis of four major functions : Living, Working, Care of the Body and Spirit and Circulation.
The architectural style of the city, which has rightly come to be called the 'Chandigarh architecture', is represented by the unfinished concrete for the buildings in the Capitol Complex and other major buildings, exposed brickwork and use of brise-soleil , a louvered screen that replaces conventional verandah to keep sunlight from walls and windows. The buildings have been built with meticulously developed and standardized architectural features like flat- iron railings, rainwater- spouts, ramps, aerators, undulatory glass panels and the use of bright primary colours (red, blue, yellow) for painting doors and windows.
The Capitol Complex: The Capitol Complex is Le Corbusier's most spectacular work. The magnificent edifices, set against the Shivalik peaks, stand "as massive concrete sculptures, representing the monumental character and authority that the complex represents. It is the sea of the government of the States of Punjab and Haryana. It comprises three epoch - making master - pieces : the Secretariat, the High Court and the Legislative Assembly. Separated by large piazzas, the subtle and most evocative grouping of these buildings is of breath - taking beauty.
And in the center stands the giant metallic sculpture of The Open Hand, the official emblem of Chandigarh, signifying the city's credo of 'open to give, open to receive'.
The High Court: The law - interpreting monument was the first building to be built in the Capitol Complex during 1951 - 1957. This structure has a double roof, projecting over the office block like a parsol or an inverted umbrella. The magnificent outward sweep of the upper roof is symbolic of protection and justice to the people. The three vertical piers, rising 60 feet from the floor and painted in bright colours, form the grand entrance to the building. A gigantic egg - crate screen covers the building façade. On the rear walls of the court rooms, hang the giant woolen tapestries designed by Le Corbusier.
The Secretariat: The law - executing monument is the largest and tallest of the three edifices in the Capitol Complex. Built during 1953-59, it is shaped like an eight - storey concrete slab, with its distinctive brise-soleil -louvered screen of deeply sculptured two - storey porticos in the center, housing the offices of minister. The cafeteria rests atop the terrace like an art object, giving a spectacular view of the city.
The Legislative Assembly: The profile of this law - forming monument epitomizes stately grandeur. Square in plan, with a monumental portico standings free from the main building, it faces the High Court. The shape of the cupola is an obliquely truncated hyperbolic paraboloid, extending well above the roof line. A pyramid covers the upper chamber of the erstwhile bicameral system and offers an exciting counterpoint to the cupola, lending artistic grace to the entire complex.
Other Monuments: The Capitol Piazza extends to abut 1,200 feet, displaying a number of attractive structures. These include the Martyrs' Memorial, raised in commemoration of the martyrs of India's freedom struggle, a Geometric Hill, the Tower of shadows and the Open Hand Monument.
The Heart: The city center is the heart of Chandigarh S activities, it comprises a District Centre, Inter State Bus Terminus, Parade Ground, District Court etc. on one hand, and vast business and shopping centers on the other. The 4 storey concrete buildings house banks and offices above, while at the ground level are the shops and show - rooms, with wide presentation where light and water play hide and seek in the evenings.
The Living: A major part of the visual expression of the city's architecture includes trend settings government houses, designed by Pierre Jeanneret, Maxwell Pry and Jane Drew. The open brick work, a regulated skyline, orderly streets, simple geometri;c forms, undadorned surfaces and sculptural facades are some of the representative features visible in the residential buildings. Each living area has provision for greenery and each sector has a green belt of its own with play grounds and gardens. All sectors have been planned as sefl - sufficient units with shopping and community facilities.
The Circulation: Traffic segmentation is another novel feature of the city's architecture. Le Corbusier developed a 7 Vs system which establishes a hierarchy of traffic from fast - moving to slow moving ranging from the arterial roads. The Vs define major boulevards, sectors, shopping streets, neighbourhood streets, access lanes to houses, pedestrian paths and cycle - tracks meandering through green spaces.
The Viscera: The Master Plan has kept the Industrial Area away from the residential complex, separated by a green belt to contain pollution. No industrial activity is allowed inside the residential areas. To any visitor, whether Indian or foreign, it is a relief to be saved of noise and air pollution.
The Lungs: Three plantation and landscaping has been an integral part of the city's Master Plan. Different types of flowering trees have been growing along the roads, around the roads, around the parking area, around the shopping complexes, in residential areas and open parks, to mollify the harsh climate of the region.
An 8 k s long liner - park, known as the Leisure Valley, runs through the city from its north eastern tip to its south - western end. The Rose Garden, Shanti Kunj the Fitness Trail, the Topiary Park, the Terraced Garden, the Champa Park, the Botanical Garden, all form a part of the green belt in the city.
Chandigarh - lives. It breathes. It exudes freshness. With its unique architectural beauty, which is a source of inspiration to many budding architects and connoisseurs, it gracefully combines modernity with ecology and sustains urban growth while preserving nature's bounties.