IT WAS a walk down memory lane, as many citizens of Chandigarh joined Prof Rajnish Wattas, former principal of Chandigarh College of Architecture, and Deepika Gandhi, director, Le Corbusier Centre and Chandigarh Architecture Museum, for a unique event, Night at the Museum. The space of exploration was the Chandigarh Architecture Museum.
Sector 10, Chandigarh, and the premise of the special event was to engage both Chandigarhians and tourists of the city in the museums. The three guided tours starting from 5.30 pm onwards were designed and curated to take the participants through various sections of the museum. Each section tells the fascinating and inspiring story of Chandigarh’s conception, planning and development, with original drawings, letters, sketches, photographs, master plan, furniture, models of buildings, elaborate text and information giving the visitors a closer view of what went into the making of India’s first modern city and Corbusier’s vision for Chandigarh. For many visitors, the tours provided new insights and also introduced them to many unknown facets of Chandigarh.
The idea of the guided tours, said Prof Wattas, was to celebrate the museums and the event, he hopes, will go a long way in bringing citizens closer to the museums and become a regular feature of the cultural landscape of the city.
From the historic moments in the making of the city, with Jawahar Lal Nehru laying the foundation stone of Chandigarh on April 2, 1952 to the personalities who shaped Chandigarh, Prof Wattas talked in detail about the American planners and architects Albert Mayer and Matthew Nowicki who made the first plan of Chandigarh.
“The Mayer plan, as you can see, has many curves, and Le Corbusier straightened these curves. The city is replete with layers and Mayer’s plan was very detailed, as he and Nowicki worked on the elements of landscaping, pedestrian paths, cycling paths, the drainage and sewerage system, services, support, roundabouts, traffic intersections. These ideas and thoughts were all carried through by Corbusier. Most of these plans and drawings that you see here are originals and we don’t have a copy. Chandigarh is a city in the garden and is based on self-sustaining units and after Nowicki’s untimely death, Mayer did not want to continue on the project and so began a search for a new architect, till Corbusier gave a nod,” added Prof Wattas. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Through the many drawings of the various phases of development of Chandigarh, and the models of the building Prof Wattas and Gandhi shared many stories of the making of Chandigarh, with Prof Wattas pointing out how Corbusier would not speak much and would talk through his drawings. “The master plan is a work of art, for Corbusier was an artist. He would begin his day by painting for two hours, so that’s why every element in the plan had a meaning and thought,” he added.
From correspondence regarding controversy, conflicts and obstructions in the growth and development of Chandigarh, the historical telegram to announce Corbusier’s appointment, the buildings which were planned and not built, like the Governor’s Palace, the Capitol Complex and its many dimensions, the philosophy of the hyperbolic-paraboloid dome of the Assembly, Corbusier’s fascinating with the wheel and its many manifestations in his drawings, the stages of realisation of Chandigarh, a section on trees, the Rock Garden, low-cost furniture by Pierre Jeanneret, the idea of the Open Hand, a symbol of peace for Corbusier, visitors got a chance to look at Chandigarh with new eyes.
“The is the only city in the world with planned landscaping and is the oxygen capital and we, as citizens, must protect the vision of the city, as you can read here the constitution devised by Corbusier for Chandigarh’s development, which talks of protecting the city, and what we should do.
“The main aim of the event is to create interest in the museum and reach out to people who don’t get time during workdays or weekends. We want to show museums as a place to be included in plans for the week or weekend. Chandigarh needs to evolve as a cultural hub with more such avenues to explore,” Gandhi said.
For the event, the rooftop cafeteria of the museum was opened to the public, which was a unique opportunity to soak in the experience of discovery and the ambiance of the museum complex.