Historical Background

'SOMETHING GOOD COMETH OUT OF EVIL'; thus goes the Biblical saying. This legendry proverb aptly describes the birth of the city of Chandigarh, which was conceived immediately after India‘s Independence in 1947. With the partition in the subcontinent, Lahore, the capital of undivided Punjab fell within Pakistan, leaving East Punjab without a Capital. It was decided to built a new Capital city called Chandigarh about 240 kms. north of New Delhi on a gently sloping terrain with foothills of the Himalayas the Shivalik range of the North and two Seasonal rivulets flowing on its two sides approximately 7-8 kms apart. The geographical location of the city is 30 degree 50' N latitude and 76 degree 48' longitude and it lies at an altitude varying from 304.8 to 365.76 meters above sea level.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Independent India’s first Prime Minister, laid down the founding principles of the new city when he said “Let this be a new town, symbolic of freedom of India unfettered by the traditions of the past….. an expressions of the nation’s faith in the future”. The city is a product of Nehru’s vision.

SELECTION OF SITE

To select a suitable site, the Govt. of Punjab appointed a Committee in 1948 under the Chairmanship of P.L Verma, Chief Engineer to assess and evaluate the existing towns in the State for setting up the proposed capital of Punjab. However, none was found suitable on the basis of several reasons, such as military vulnerability, shortage of drinking water, inaccessibility, inability to cope in flux of large number of refugees etc. The present site was selected in 1948 taking into account various attributes such as its Central location in the state, proximity to the national capital & availability of sufficient water supply, fertile of soil, gradient of land for natural drainage, beautiful site with the panorama of blue hills as backdrop & moderate climate.

PLANNER

An American Firm, M/s. Mayer, Whittlessay and Glass was commissioned in 1950 to prepare the Master Plan for the new City. Albert Mayer and Mathew Novicki evolved a fan shaped Master Plan and worked out conceptual sketches of the super block. The super block was designed as a self –sufficient neighborhood units placed along the curvilinear roads and comprised of cluster type housing, markets and centrally located open spaces. Novicki was tragically killed in an air accident and Mayer decided to discontinue. Thereafter, the work was assigned to a team of architects led by Charles Eduard Jeanneret better known as Le Corbusier in 1951.

He was assisted by three senior architects, Maxwell Fry, his wife Jane B Drew and Corbusier’s cousin, Pierre Jeanneret. These senior architects were supported by a team of young Indian architect and planner consisting of M.N. Sharma, A. R. Prabhawalkar, U.E. Chowdhary, J.S. Dethe, B.P. Mathur, Aditya Prakash, N.S. Lanbha and others.

The Master Plan was developed by Le Corbusier who also designed the Capital Complex and established the architectural control & design of the main building of the city. The design of housing for Govt. employees, schools, shopping centers, hospitals were disturbed among the three senior architects.

Maxwell Fry and Jane B. Drew worked for about three years on the project and then left due to their engagements elsewhere. Pierre Jeanneret who ultimately became the Chief Architect and Town Planning Adviser to Govt. of Punjab returned to Switzerland in 1965. M.N. Sharma took over from Pierre Jeanneret as the first Indian Chief Architect of the Project and after the reorganization of the State of Punjab in 1966 and the establishment of Union Territory, Chandigarh, he was appointed as Administrative Secretary of the Department of Architecture in the Chandigarh Administration. The major buildings designed by these architects are the important landmarks in the city.

 

Le Corbusier

Pierre Jeanneret

Maxwell Fry

Jane B. Drew