Landmark Le Corbusier show unveiled in India

26th November 2007, Comments 0 comments

CHANDIGARH — Thirty-five years ago, architect Jacques Sbriglio made a pilgrimage to India's only "planned city", Chandigarh, designed by France's Le Corbusier.

CHANDIGARH — Thirty-five years ago, architect Jacques Sbriglio made a pilgrimage to India's only "planned city", Chandigarh, designed by France's Le Corbusier.

Le Corbusier

Now he has brought here the biggest exhibit ever mounted in the country on the architectural icon, displaying more than 200 of his plans, models, paintings, photographs and other works.

"I have the feeling I am paying my own homage to this great architect," Sbriglio, now 60, told AFP.

The Marseilles-based admirer was just 25 when he travelled to Chandigarh at the foot of the Himalayas in northern India to see the city designed by Le Corbusier, known as the "apostle" of concrete high-rises.

"I was fascinated by him," said Sbriglio, referring to his youthful journey. "I wanted to see this city he had created in India."

*quote1*Critics villify Le Corbusier as the father of soulless apartment blocks, squat shopping centres and multi-level parking lots and call him an architectural "totalitarian."

But to admirers, "Corbu," as he was nicknamed by friends, espoused a humanist vision of the future that would provide light-filled, roomy homes for the urban poor at low cost. By building skywards, there would be space for gardens and sports grounds.

"Everything that architecture should do is for the love of one's fellow man, to give him satisfaction and pleasure," said Le Corbusier, who some call the most influential architect of the 20th century.

"He was first and foremost a social architect," Sbriglio said. "He was innovating in urbanism."

The Assembly Building of Chandigarh

The exhibit, displayed in New Delhi this month, travels to Chandigarh in December and to the western city of Ahmedabad in January.

Le Corbusier was commissioned by India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru to build from scratch a new capital for the freshly carved out state of Punjab "unfettered by the traditions of the past."

The state lost its historic capital Lahore -- once known as the Paris of the east -- at independence in the 1947 when the subcontinent was divided into India and Pakistan.

Designed in a grid pattern, Chandigarh stands out from the rest of India with its clean lines, broad avenues and imposing government buildings built on a vast scale in concrete with columns, ramps, sculpted roof lines and screens to protect against the punishing sun.

It was intended to showcase "modern India" and be a radical departure from the congested disorder of other subcontinental urban centres.

The design of the city was to be Le Corbusier's biggest assignment -- a chance at the age of 62 to put his architectural theories into practice.

The architect wanted Chandigarh to be the urban "temple of new India" and offer "all amenities of life to the poorest of the poor citizens."

Despite the fact the city is now bursting at the seams with new arrivals, it is still regularly picked in surveys as India's most liveable city. Chandigarh has nearly one million people -- double the number originally planned for.

Le Corbusier was born in 1887 in Switzerland as Charles-Edouard Jeanneret but changed his name after he shifted to France in 1917. He took French citizenship 13 years later.

The exhibit assembles the work of Le Corbusier's "maturity" from 1945 to 1965 when he died in a swimming accident at the age of 78, said Sbriglio.

Upon his death, Le Corbusier left behind 35 sculptures, 52 books, 550 paintings, 6,500 drawings, 32,000 architectural plans and sketches, countless articles and 64 finished buildings.

"He was a renaissance man" whose "creativity was maintained in the work up to the end," said Sbriglio.

"If we look at the architecture produced today at the beginning of the 21st century, it is striking how much Le Corbusier's work remains relevant."


Subject: French news, Le Corbusier

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