Winning the book Le Corbusier- Pierre Jeanneret at The Collector’s Eye, an online auction conducted by an Indian auction house, Saffronart, I delved into the realm of the beginning of modern architecture. Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, popularly known by his pseudonym Le Corbusier, was considered as the wizard of architecture and design industry. Eminently known for his revolutionary architecture and design that helped rebuild and establish cities after the First World War and redefining the face of modern architecture, Le Corbusier is one of the greatest architects of the 20th century. He belonged to the first generation of the International school of architecture and his designs have the functionalism of the modern movement with striking expressionism. His project, with its wall of insulating and heating glass, is one of the finest examples of the architect’s gift to architecture. An admirer of art, history, drawing and naturalist aesthetics since his childhood, Le Corbusier is also known for his experiments in materials being used in architecture as well as furniture. He was known to have collaborated with the architect Charlotte Perriand and his cousin Pirre Jeanneret to design some most iconic and modernist furniture though it is difficult to put an exact date to the beginning of the collaboration. It is often said that Le Corbusier’s dazzling personality overshadowed that of his modest cousin. Finding himself in total disagreement with the conservative outlook in Geneva, with its rejection of modernity and refusal to accept new ideas, Pierre sought French nationality. To his credit, he has planned some iconic buildings present in cities like New York, Paris, Moscow Switzerland, Rio-De-Janeiro etc.
He was also the architect of the first planned city of India, Chandigarh. He was passionate about his architecture and artworks; he described the iconic Open hand as-
“Sign of peace and of reconciliation meant to receive the created riches and to distribute them to the people of the world. That should be the symbol of our epoch.”
Located in the Capitol complex of Indian city Chandigarh Openhand is a symbolic structure designed by the architect. Each building in Chandigarh was planned as a part of a whole, a whole permeated by an eloquent symbolism. Chandigarh was one of the first modern cities of India planned after independence and was planned by Le Corbusier and his cousin Pierre Jeanneret on request of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who urged the architects to be- “Expressive, experimental, and not let themselves be confined to traditions.” The self-taught architect Le Corbusier was the first architect to make use of rough-cast concrete in his architectural designs. The cast iron sewage cover, designed by the master architect is decorated with Chandigarh’s plan and is another sought after collectable. In 2016, 17 of his architectural works were named World Heritage sites by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).
Initially discarding the idea of working from India, Le Corbusier came to India in February 1951 and worked on the planning of Chandigarh until he died in 1965. He planned one of the most ambitious ventures of Chandigarh i.e The Legislative Assembly which was opened in 1964. The enormous circular chamber of the assembly is topped by a 40-meter tower, which is inspired by industrial cooling towers and has a slanted top made up of perforated aluminium frame fulfilling several functions: providing natural light and ensuring ventilation. The book also unfolds the magic that he created in the world of architecture and his passion for his profession in which he shares his observations and experience while working in India.
“Here began a great architectural adventure with means of extreme poverty, a labour force accustomed to modern technology, a climate which in itself is a considerable adversary, and a native population whose ideas and needs must be satisfied rather than imposing Western ideas and ethics.”
Being aware of the diverse culture and harsh climatic conditions in India he got into the task of thinking and inventing rather than applying the same ideas of the west in India. He got into the ‘heart of the gigantic crowd and worked towards the development of human values, ‘through inventiveness and sensitivity’.
“The violence of the sun and rain demanded compelling solutions from the builder, nothing from the white race’s architectural task is usable here.”
Working in India impacted him deeply and he believed that India could provide eloquent plans of action to the world at the time of disorder. Le Corbusier was so impressed by and attached to the Indian Culture that after his death his ashes were spread at Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh.