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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Pierre Jeanneret’s 125th birth anniversary: ‘People need to be sensitised about city’s heritage and people who created it’

To bring elements of Jeanneret’s work, philosophy to people, an outdoor exhibition is on display till March 31.

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh |
March 24, 2021 5:25:13 am
Architect Pierre Jeanneret was a part of Le Corbusier’s team that worked on planning and building Chandigarh, spending 15 long years here. (Photo courtesy: Fondation Le Corbusier, Paris; Bonhams website)

Architect Pierre Jeanneret was a part of Le Corbusier’s team that worked on planning and building Chandigarh, spending 15 long years here, relentlessly adding to the aesthetics of the city. “But how many residents of the Tricity actually know this man who has created much of the city that we see today?” asks Deepika Gandhi, Director of Chandigarh Museum of Architecture and Le Corbusier Centre.

Each year the Architecture Museums of Chandigarh commemorate the day with an event. To help Jeanneret emerge from the shadows of his iconic cousin Le Corbusier has been a crusade of sorts for Deepika, who also restored Jeanneret dwelling of 11 years– to transform it into a museum, dedicated to his life and works, in 2017. Since then, the museum has held several events to mark the birth and death anniversary of the legendary architect. Besides workshops for teachers, activities for students, the day has witnessed the inauguration of the restored Block A of the Le Corbusier Centre in 2018 and the Canteen Block of the campus in the following year.

“This year marked his 125th birth anniversary on March 22 and a simple one-day event was just not a befitting tribute. Hence, we began the mission to take the works of Jeanneret to the public at large, beyond the confines of museums and academic discourse which ultimately does little to spread awareness and sensitisation among the masses,” says Deepika. With a multi-pronged approach, about two months ahead of his birth anniversary, the museum began with a series of information modules which were posted on various social media platforms. A special talk with former Chief Architect Sumit Kaur was also organised at the behest of the Council of Architecture, India, to establish the legacy of Jeanneret beyond Chandigarh, among students and faculty across the country.

To engage students and creative people with Jeanneret’s impressive oeuvre, a souvenir design competition was organised in collaboration with MN Sharma Architectural Society to further raise awareness about his works and philosophy.

“Since people are still averse to visiting museums – especially a niche one like the Jeanneret Museum, an exhibition of the selected works of Jeanneret was conceptualised in an idyllic space – the underpass connecting the Rose Garden to Sector 17. This venue attracts a very different section of citizens from the ones who throng museums and art galleries and that was what my target group has been all along. There is not much point preaching to the converted- it’s the masses that need to be sensitised and made aware of their city’s heritage and the people who created it. To cover as many aspects of Jeanneret’s work and personality, the limited exhibition was carefully curated to start from Corbusier’s acknowledgement of Jeanneret’s contribution to Chandigarh, to his residential and institutional works. Special attention was given to his unique aesthetic sense which showed up in details of staircases, openings and parapets. His furniture, of course, finds mention as well as his pedal boat. The exhibition culminates with the poignant image of his ashes, being immersed in Sukhna Lake as per his wish. This one request shows beyond any doubt his deep attachment to and love for the city, which he literally raised from the ground over a prolific and productive span of 15 years,” adds Deepika.

The exhibition, supported by Chandigarh Lalit kala Akademi, was inaugurated on March 22, as part of the activities being undertaken by Chandigarh Tourism towards the Azaadi ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations.

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The winners of the Souvenir Design competition were also facilitated. Harsh Khare and Ujjwal won the first prize, Vridhi Jain secured the second place and Samarth and Shweta won the third prize for creating interesting postcards, notebooks, mugs, tote bags and even lapel pins based on the elements that made up Jeanneret’s work. Artist Varun Tandon displayed an impressive collage of Jeanneret showcasing 125 elements of his work.

Now, following the announcement of museums being closed to visitors till further notice, this outdoor exhibition seems like a perfectly timed initiative that will be on display till March 31.

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