Friday, February 1, 2013

Chandigarh, The Capitol Complex

Jaipur, February 1, 2013

The good news is that Le Corbusier's Capitol buildings at Chandigarh--the High Court, the Secretariat and the Assembly--remain extraordinarily powerful.  Also, that more than fifty years after their completion, they are in reasonably good shape and full of activity.  The bad news is that the open spaces and the relationships between the buildings have been completely destroyed by the combined assaults of parking and security.

Actually, the truth is that without the Governor's Palace in the middle, the open expanse between the High Court and the Assembly became simply too vast to work, to create any spatial tension.  Le Corbusier obviously knew this and when politics left the Palace on the drawing boards, he proposed a "Museum of Knowledge" (yes, modest he never was) for the spot, as a last-ditch effort to complete the scheme.  But nothing ever happened.

Today, surrounded by acres of parking, chopped up by fences of barbed wire and blocked by innumerable makeshift checkpoints, Chandigarh's Capitol Complex is nothing but a wasteland of dirt and broken pavement, mostly left to a few civil servants playing cricket and occasional monkeys (really) roaming around.  Lonely and overpowered, the exquisite sunken court with the Open Hand offers a glimpse of what it could have been.

Or maybe it's still possible... who knows, what if, at Chandigarh, Le Corbusier is Michelangelo waiting for his Bernini?

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