Chandigarh, derives its name from a temple Chandi
Mandir in the vicinity of the site selected for the city (deity Chandi,
goddess of power), and a fort or ‘garh" beyond the temple, called
Chandigarh was conceived as the capital of Punjab, in lieu of the lost
capital at Lahore. But Punjab was divided a second time in 1966, and Chandigarh is today
the capital of the States of both Punjab and Haryana. However, the city does not belong to
either. Chandigarh is a Union Territory, administered by the Government of India.
Chandigarh belongs to its people. They love the city, and are proud of
the quality of life it continues to provide.
The Story of Chandigarh
has become synonymous with a certain kind architecture, alongwith planned landscaping, not
found in other cities of India, and not amenable to being strait jacketed. And so we begin
the story of Chandigarh.
Initially the Government of Punjab approached American town planner
Albert Mayer who along with architect Matthew Nowicki became the key planners for the new
city. The master plan conceived by them had a fan-shaped outline filling the site between
the two seasonal river-beds. At the northern edge of the city was the capitol complex
against the panoramic backdrop of the Shivalik hills. The City Centre was sited in the
middle, and two linear parklands ran from the northeast to the southwest. Mayer sought to
create self-sufficient city, restricted in size and surrounded by green belts. Areas were
clearly demarcated for business, industry and cultural activities. In August 1950, his
co-planner Nowicki died in a plane crash and Mayer withdrew from the project.
This vision of Chandigarh, contained in the
innumerable conceptual maps on the drawing board together with notes and
sketches had to be translated into brick and mortar. Le Corbusier,
eminent architect and urban theorist, was selected to carry forward this
task. He retained many of the seminal ideas of Mayer and Nowicki, like
the basic framework of the master plan and its components: the Capitol,
City Centre, besides the University, Industrial area, and linear
parkland. Even the neighbourhood unit was retained as the basic module
of planning. However, the curving outline of Mayer and Nowicki was
reorganised into a mesh of rectangles, and the buildings were
characterised by an ‘honesty of materials’. Exposed brick and boulder
stone masonry in its rough form produced unfinished concrete surfaces,
in geometrical structures. This became the architecture form
characteristic of Chandigarh, set amidst landscaped gardens and parks.