THE NORTH light fills the rooms of the Le Corbusier Centre in Sector 19, and the heritage furniture, green surroundings, jute panels on cupboards, brick floors and cross-ventilation give the space a timeless appeal and an old world charm. Designed by Swiss architect Pierre Jeanneret, whose death anniversary was on December 4, the building is a fine example of modular and sustainable architecture, with an attention to Chandigarh’s mandate of cost-effective and climate responsive design.
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Demonstrating the immense creative and technical prowess of Jeanneret, the building was made with experimental and cost-effective materials and methods, such as exposed reinforced concrete shell of the porch, precast beams of sloping roofs, brick tiles for floors, jute-lac panels for doors and cupboard shutters, points out Deepika Gandhi, Director, Le Corbusier Centre. “It’s a great example of pre-fabrication, with Jeanneret using local materials, expertise, tools to create this unique building. The spirit of experimentation of Nehru’s new city ‘free from encumbrances of the past’ was obvious in the choice of its form and construction,” she adds.
Originally called the Old Architects’ Office, this was one of the earliest buildings constructed in Chandigarh. The workplace of Le Corbusier and his team, and the space from where Chandigarh was designed, the building is of immense historic value to Chandigarh. Back in 2008, the non-permanent construction, which was in a state of neglect, was going to be demolished and in its place another building for the environment offices was being planned. “If it were not for the outcry from the residents of the city and architects, the structure, a significant resource for understanding technological, formal, and aesthetic spirit of modern architecture, and its manifestation in the context of Chandigarh would have been lost,” adds Gandhi.
Now, the good news is that the Chandigarh Administration has decided to establish a research centre at the Le Corbusier Centre, to facilitate individuals, groups of scholars and students and also educational institutes to conduct research here. Many parts of the building are slowly and steadily being restored, with plans being finalized for expansion of the museum here and setting up of a library. The proposed research centre will have cubicles for individual researchers, a seminar hall, library, scanning facilitates, documentation centre, a cafe, wi-fi connectivity etc.
Every year, points out Gandhi, scholars and students from across the world come to Chandigarh for research purposes, but lack a dedicated place to work in and the research centre strives to fill this gap. “More importantly, we foresee this centre as a meeting ground for people from different fields to share experiences, have brainstorming sessions, discussions and also work on possibility of future collaborations,” says Gandhi. Also, the space will be open for workshops, seminars, conferences, with inventory and mapping of heritage sites/buildings of Corbusier and Jeanneret provided to researchers along with with multiple access pass to Capitol Complex and other heritage buildings. Access to libraries in the city, database of research and publications on Chandigarh and Corbusier, list of experts on various fields of study, scope for research collaborations with the Chandigarh College of Architecture… these facilities and space for research will be made available at the payment of a nominal fee, as per specific needs and durations of the researchers, shares Gandhi, who is working on a model on how heritage furniture designed by Jeanneret here. The building will be abuzz with new activity.