There are a handful of people in the world who are there to revolutionise the field of their industry and bring out to an exuberant marvel of spectacle that is there to awe the world. Le’ Corbusier born in the laps of Jura Mountains, north-western Switzerland was one such personality who had the vision to come out of the ordinary and shape the architecture like never before.
Keeping his ideology in mind, today it can be rightfully said that Le’ Corbusier is the pioneer of “Modern Architecture”.
There is no sphere that his mind didn’t travelled. He was there to create and embellish the housing, planning, constructing and glorifying with his idea of art that made him popular and left a mark so great that even today his techniques and building designs are followed by the top famous Architects around the world.
He was the founder of the idea of “Purism” and dedicated his life to it. He condemned the thought that objects used in the houses are mere decorations and advocated in favour of creating spaces that were not decorations but art itself and more importantly are useful tools.
He cited many examples to explain his Purist theory where he said that, “A house is a machine to live in.” His central idea was that the elements in houses like chairs, bottles, and basket are not pieces of decoration but they are useful objects emphasising on that “Decor is not necessary. Art is necessary.”
Le Corbusier works and the buildings he created are so well appreciated that even UNESCO accredited it with “The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement” on July 17, 2016, respectively where seventeen of his marvellous projects were listed. Such was the calibre of this Swiss born French architect!
A Libra; born on October 6, 1887 in Switzerland. Born at a place popularly known as La Chaux-de-Fonds, which is some 5 kilometres away from France across the border. The town is known for making the finest watches exported to France and the nearby areas.
He was brought up in a home where art, music and culture were adorned gladly. His mother was a pianist and brother a violinist who had their charm in keeping the homely atmosphere lively and also was their source of income. His father was an artisan working with a watch-making outlet where his job was to polish and enamel the wooden boxes for the finest watches.
It is only obvious that Le’ Corbusier born in such an artistic environment would inherit some dexterity himself. He quotes in one of his writings referring to his childhood talking about his father that “we were constantly on mountaintops; we grew accustomed to a vast horizon.” What he meant was that the times he spent with his mother and wandering the mountain tops with his father showed him the perspective that helped him in channelizing his thought process to go beyond the possible limits and this is well seen in his theories and journals he created in his lifetime.
It can be rightfully said that L'Eplattenier was the driving force which made Corbusier decide his profession. Though the role of the architect René Chapallaz who was his teacher, under whose guidance he studied architecture, cannot be negated. Later it was discovered in the words of Corbusier himself addressing his art teacher, L'Eplattenier that “I accepted the verdict and I obeyed. I moved into architecture.”
At that point in time, he was 16 and had no formal educational training of any kind. He was self-taught and later, he decided to get into an Art School to learn architecture. To the irony, he was afraid freakishly of architects. He even quoted that “I had a horror of architecture and architects” but as they say that, “Good teacher inspire hope, ignite imagination, and instil the love for learning” (Brad Henry), which is what his teacher did for him. He not only accepted his teacher’s suggestion but brought the best in him for the world to see and cherish till eternity. His works are unique, exemplary and an integral part of Architectural Academic in Universities everywhere.
We can say that Le Corbusier got much of his inspiration from the world around. He either read books on architecture and philosophy or constructed places himself to experiment with the existing techniques and explore new horizons along the way.
His interest in philosophy gave him a new vertical to work in collaboration with art, paintings and writings to inspire and bring a new era of modernism. His phenomenal sketches are still available to see at various galleries in France.
He along with his fellow friends under the supervision of his teacher René Chapallaz constructed a “Villa Fallet” home from his art teacher L'Eplattenier’s friend Luis Fallet, hence the name of the place. This house was more of a chalet made in Swiss style with beautiful woodwork and geometric designs and with a fascinating interior that was one of a kind structures ever built in the area.
The place was liked so much by the people around that he ended up getting two more projects in the same area and built the Villas Jacquemet and Stotzer. For those who would want to have a look at the villas and happen to be at La Chaux-de-Fonds might as well get a close look at the art that existed back in the days.
From this point on there was no looking back! He got this urge to travel and explore the places himself. He travelled Italy, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and places nearby where he kept a sketchbook with him wherever he went and filled some 80 pages engraving his masterpieces with his pen.
He spoke much about his travel. Speaking about his experiences and motivation some of his sketches are preserved in his last book “Le Voyage d'Orient.”
He worked with a number of prominent people during his lifetime where each left an impression in his heart. One such place is Florence which he visited during his short stay in Italy. The Florence Charterhouse in Galluzzo left an everlasting impression on his mind which embarked him to take the journey where he created impeccable structures touching the hearts of the people ever since.
During the years 1908 to1910, he got the opportunity to work under Auguste Perret who was the architect of Art Deco which is the living example where his perception of art turned into visual arts influencing every object from buildings, fashion and accessories, carpentry and furniture, automotive (cars, trains, and ocean liners) and more during that era and till today. Much of his inspiration in the later life came from the works of Art Deco that later led him solely work for Cubism.
1918 A landmark period of his life! The theory of Purism came into being. In the year 1917, he collaborated with his cousin Pierre Jeanneret professional and their partnership lasted till the Second World War.
It is during these days of his professional life that he met Amédée Ozenfant, a cubist painter. This was a landmark period of Corbusier’s life where he along with the Artist who believed in Cubism negated the theory completely calling it “irrational” and “romantic” both formulated a new theory instead called Purism.
They started a journal “L'Esprit Nouveau” where he promoted his new ideas of architecture, talking about geometry, the significance of tools and house as a machine.
His ideas were out of the contemporary which can be well explained from his book “Toward an Architecture” where his series of urban planning and concepts are well written embellishing the thought process of Purist Theory behind.
The list is endless! He devoted his entire life to urban planning and modern architecture. It is to be understood that during his days the term “modern” was not attached to his work as it was still shaping up to come out of the closet and be revealed in the full light.
There was a lot of criticism and he had some tough times dealing in his career where it became difficult for him to explain his theory.
As an example, what he envisions, he created “L'Esprit Nouveau Pavilion” in 1925. This was a marvellous piece which was initially built as a part of an exhibition to be showcased at the Art Deco.
Nothing can explain the Pavilion best than in Le’ Corbusier’s own words which he wrote “A house is a cell within the body of a city. The cell is made up of the vital elements which are the mechanics of a house. Decorative art is anti-standardisation. Our pavilion will contain only standard things created by the industry in factories and mass produced, objects truly of the style of today. My pavilion will, therefore, be a cell extracted from a huge apartment building." This not only explains the reason for building the pavilion but also throws light on his concept of Purism which was the sole purpose of the project.
The people like his Purism Theory so much that in France alone there were a number of houses and building which took shape based on the theory itself which include Fondation Le Corbusier and Maison Guiette in Belgium built in 1926, respectively.
Villa Savoye (1927) is his prominent works that are a perfect example of urban planning. The place is so beautifully carved that it touches nature and geometric designs, windows, panelling and more add to the scenic charm and serenity around.
By the year 1926, he became a well-known personality of the Architectural World. People gushed about him and followed his principles. His career was sky-rocketing and as a result of which he got the Pessac Housing Project which was his very first laboratory.
League of Nations wanted to take up the project but Corbusier and his intellect outshined everybody. The project was about creating low-budget houses in lanes where some seventy units were built in around 8 buildings. A landmark achievement of urban planning that was made possible by the efforts of this revolutionary Architect.
One may call the Moscow Projects that Corbusier got as his second laboratory as this project was unique to the nature and was an experiment that turned out to be a failure in his life.
The project never took place. The idea was to build a Cathedral in place of Russian Orthodox cathedral of Moscow that was earlier demolished by Stalin. Corbusier came up with an original plan where he explained his ideas but it got rejected by Stalin as he wanted a massive neoclassical tower crowned with a statue of Vladimir Lenin instead.
But the place was only in the imagination as with the outbreak of the World War II, the idea was thrown out the window. Today, there exists a swimming pool and the Russian Cathedral was rebuilt as the outcome.
Chandigarh! A project that he took in 1951 was one of the most ambitious projects that he took in his lifetime. Jawaharlal Nehru handed over the responsibility to this French Marvel with the trust that something spectacular will take shape.
The hardest time in the history of India was its partition that not only became the battleground of riots between Hindu-Muslim Community but also led to deep engraving scars that till date people remember and it pains them with the brutality that India witnessed. The partition left Eastern Punjab without a capital as Lahore was now part of Pakistan.
Jawaharlal Nehru wanted to build a capital city that will fill that empty void and bring in positivity from all its corners. At this strategic position, today stands Chandigarh often quoted as “centre of tourist attraction. A blessing in disguise one may call where now stands a beautiful city like no other.
The High Court of Justice: Towers of limestone which got repainted later to make it weather proof, a radical design covered with high concrete grills and walls with columns allowing the air to circulate well. The building still stands strong today and is an ingenious design that is used as an example by many architects.
Secretariat Building: It is one of the largest buildings that were made for government offices to function systematically. This gigantic block which is 250 metres long and 8 level high has a roof terrace, concrete grill covering the windows and has a ramp around which is partly sculptural and partly practical.
Palace of Assembly: A remarkable construction that has a 500-metre-long esplanade and is facing the High Court with a large reflecting pool. The asset of the building is its courtyard and the central meeting hall. The roof has a pillar with a signature of the architect himself. This also tells us that Corbusier considered this building a proud ensemble of his creation.
Chandigarh Architecture is composed of 56 sectors and all are well connected with each other in a systematic and meticulous layout with shops, parks, schools and more.
Each sector has a V4 street that is only for shopping complexes and is in chain adjoining the other sectors. The sector has a residential area supporting population ranging from 3000 to 20000 depending upon the size of the plots constructed.
The places for entertainment like the Musical Fountain; to enjoy the subtle music in the arms of Mother Nature, to have that extra time to walk with children and talk about the day, makes one joyous.
The Serenity of Sukhna Lake to absorb oneself in its beauty and The Peace Garden (Garden of Silence) where the body and soul truly becomes one is a wonderful place to explore.
The Rose Garden which is a home to 1600 species of rose where one can smell the roses from far across, makes one smitten by it.
Leisure Valley settled at the foot of Shivalik Hills lets one enliven the spirit of harmony where one finds itself wrapped around the lush greenery and vibrant flowers soothing to the eyes and much more that makes Chandigarh the capital city of Punjab.
Chandigarh is in every way deserving of the title “the city beautiful”. The Architecture to the facilities it provides and the uniquely designed sectors which are interlinked so well that one can never be lost.
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25th April, 2019 18:43 PM
A great little museum that houses many interesting photos, paintings and documents concerning the early development and philosophy behind the design of Chandigarh. A really useful introduction to the city.