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THE CITY AS A COPY OF ITSELF

 

Solitary highrises surrounded by large areas without any cars. This was how Le Corbusier wanted Chandigarh to look. But he was not allowed to realise this idea. Instead, he designed the overall city plan, the Capitol Complex and a few individual buildings, whereas most of the housing estates and other buildings were designed by his cousin Pierre Jeanneret and the English architect couple Edwin Maxwell Fry and Jane Beverly Drew.

After 1965, when the plan for Chandigarh was finalised, new sectors and buildings have been added. Kiran Joshi, lecturer at the Chandigarh College of Architecture, told me how all the new buildings in the city must relate to the original city plan, follow its norms and compositional principles.

Le Corbusier designed the Government Art College in 1958 and his Chandigarh College of Architecture was modelled after it. The latter, very similar to the first externally as well as internally but somewhat smaller in scale, was built in 1961. The Art College has become the ‘original’ and the College of Architecture the ‘copy’. When you visit both buildings it feels as if you were moving in identical rooms where something has changed, contracted or expanded.

Why would anyone build a copy of something that already exists in the same city? In the various ‘twin buildings’ of Chandigarh the cityscape seems to dissolve into parts that are endlessly repeated in a never-changing pattern. The city appears as a bizarre fractal mirror image of itself.

There is a defined limit to how much Chandigarh is allowed to grow. If this limit is transgressed and shifted, how will the city look like? Will the new parts be built as copies of the old ones? Must all future buildings become copies of those once designed by Le Corbusier, or will Chandigarh gradually venture into new solutions?

MATS ERIKSSON