Written by Aryan Trivedi
“They say that Chandigarh has become a concrete jungle, but it is all in the head. The garden city is the heartthrob of all nature enthusiasts and with such beautiful living sculptures as trees, I wouldn’t be wrong if I say that Chandigarh is not a garden city, it is a city in the garden,” said Professor Rajnish Wattas, speaking on the occasion of International Museums Day.
The Le Corbusier Centre, in collaboration with the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi, organised an audio-visual presentation and lecture by Professor Rajnish Wattas under the theme, ‘A brush with nature, trees as elements of cityscape’. As part of the presentation, Professor Wattas, former principal of Chandigarh College of Architecture and the author of, ‘Trees of Chandigarh, Le Corbusier Rediscovered: Chandigarh and Beyond’ and ‘Sukhna, Sublime Lake of Chandigarh’, talked about the history, landscape of the city, man-nature relationship and roles of trees in urban areas.
“Our relationship with trees is changing every day. These trees are the greatest art forms and living sculptures. An inner passion to cherish this timeless beauty is a crucial attribute which our youth must have. Chandigarh is the only city in the world to be planned in such an extensive and beautiful manner. No other city has been planned on such a vast graph. I admire the vistas of the city, the seeds of which, were sown meticulously and diligently by Dr M S Randhawa, Dr P N Thakkar, Le Corbusier, P L Varma and many others.” said Professor Wattas.
He also laid emphasis on Mughal architecture, British Raj architecture and added that the DNA of City Beautiful was laid out by the Americans. In 1949, Albert Mayer worked hard to design a beautiful city with great detailing and courtyard landscaping, but was unable to execute his plans.
The alignment of Chandigarh towards the hills was Le Corbusier’s idea, which provides an extremely uplifting experience and is a divine benediction for the citizens.Professor Wattas, pleased with the inclusion of Capitol Complex in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, praised the architectural style and founders of the city, who sowed the seeds of ‘The Garden City’ with their sweat and hard work.
He also discussed the importance and role of distinct flowering trees in each sector. He stressed that initially, Chandigarh’s sector were coloured with various flowering trees, determining the identity of the sectors, but now, Chukrasia (the Indian mahogany) spread all around the city.
“If plantation of Chukrasia continues in such an extensive manner, Chandigarh would surely become ‘Chukrasiagarh’. It is important to plant trees all around the city, but the distinction in flowering trees also matters at the same time,” he added.
In an engaging presentation, Professor Wattas also reflected on the concepts of tree plantation and the role of trees in urban areas. He said that trees have environmental value as they change people’s perception towards the city, have functional, inter-relational, architectural and aesthetic values. Chandigarh is not an aesthetically pleasing city only due to its tree-scape, but also due to its beautiful roads which are configured in a great manner. Professor Wattas also hailed the heterogeneous plantation around roads and said there are some factors of this beautiful city that are ignored and heterogeneous plantation around city roads is one among them.