Written by Nagina Bains
THE LE Corbusier Centre commemorated three years of the induction of the Capitol Complex in the UNESCO world heritage sites on Wednesday. The Complexe du Capitole houses the Assembly, the Secretariat, the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Open Hand monument and the Shadow Tower.
S D Sharma, a young architect working with Corbusier in those days, gave the keynote address and emphasised the importance of design, detailing and execution in building this complex. He dwelt on the bureaucratic and sometimes political hassles faced by the team of Maxwell Fry and Pierre Jeanneret in implementing the vision of Le Corbusier. “It’s P L Verma, the first chief engineer of Chandigarh who needs a special mention; he said that he won’t move from his office till team Corbusier comes to Chandigarh,’’ he said.
He recounted how Verma accompanied by his structural engineer, Mahender Raj, found hindrances in executing the ministers’ block in the Secretariat. When they mentioned it to Corbusier, they were told it is probably not possible for the Indian skill set. The drawings were sent to France and that is when Corbusier corrected himself, saying that he probably underestimated the Indians and went ahead with the modifications. Sharma also read out a letter by Maxwell Fry to the Secretary of Chandigarh on how Corbusier had a magnificent vision for Chandigarh and how collaborative efforts can be made to see it materialise.
The backdrop at the event, a sketch of two clasped hands by Corbusier, gave the ideal impetus to the idea of architecture and engineering being synonymous in building the modern age.
Later, Mukesh Anand, UT Chief Engineer, gave a detailed presentation of the phase I and II of restoration works which will be completed by 2021 for which the CBRI Roorkee has been tasked with the brief to only recreate the original and no substitutes. He mentioned that exposed concrete facades required outstanding skill and effort.
Sarabjit Sandhu, a retired chief architect and student of the maiden batch of Chandigarh college of architecture, recalled his meeting with Le Corbusier as a student and said, “it’s a school of thought which has been embedded in us.’’
The evening ended with a quote by Corbusier, “Chandigarh salutes in silence its makers, those marvels of mind and their courage of conviction and unclenching will to absorb.”