Jul '12 - Jan '13
The lineal dogma of Corbu is a pervading one. Although it can be traced into the hearts and minds of all designers, (consciously or subconsciously), it would seem those in his immediacy received a more potent dose. After apprenticing under Corbu in Chandigarh, planners Prakash M. Apte & H. K. Mewada were commissioned to build a new capital for the state of Gujarat. These noble builders of free India set to work with their cookie cutters to stamp out a metropolis in the desert.
If Chandigarh is suburbia, then Gandhinagar is a rural village. Her infrastructure lies intact, but capacious planes of shapeless plots bask in the desert sun between her stark social housing and brutalist shopping centers. I cringe to call her a city. A tractor seems more fitting an alias. A machine for living indeed, but for no such living I wish to partake.
The heart of Corbu's Chandigarh was her shopping district, an unmitigated sector dedicated to fastidious consumption, and Chandigarh's most frequented public space. Gandhinagar boasts no such space, for her city center is the Capitol complex, and a visit to her "Mega Shopping Center" only corroborates the argument. One may find traces of Gandhinagar shopping along just a few main roads. It emulates Chandigarh in both, plan and execution, adhering to the axiom of the personal motor vehicle and the restraints of parking, denying herself a proper streetscape.
The sector entrails of Gandhinagar cohere to a slightly less rigid composition, as a more vernacular approach to urban planning is adopted. There is a separation of motor and human traffic through an offset layering of grids, pedestrian traffic slips under main throughways, but both are so underutilize no real economy seems to be gained. Although no all-inclusive physical inspection of the city took place, it was made quite clear that the professional class of citizens so famed by Chandigarh, with their noble plaques of gold bearing name and rank, were absent from the suburban streets of inner Gandhinagar. What remains are limp shells of heavy mass, reminiscing not of their great creator, but of economy and speed.
With such expectations reaped in Chandigarh, I should foresee nothing more than the prosaic. Gandhinagar's Capitol complex did not fail to inflict disappointment. Perhaps it is due to programmatic restraints, as only one chamber is needed for legislators to preside over Gujarat, wherein two are necessary for Punjab and Haryana. A duality is consequently formed by which Corbu's tertiary space becomes most eventful. The monolithic form of the chamber in Gandhinagar stands alone, on guard, erect and symmetrical within her cage of bureaucratic offices, devoid of any amelioration-a digression at best.
As for her secretariat and high court, there is little I can say which may evoke a sense of awe and pleasure in one, so much as to wish a visit. They are banal office buildings, economically driven to double loaded corridors; heaping masses encompassing courtyards of concrete. I wish to say nothing more.
And so, the struggling little brother of Chandigarh will live on in her vast nothingness, her people content or melancholy as they motor from their modest brick homes to the Capitol complex and back. They peel through overgrown parks and pitch their tents on plots held for more noble causes, visit their ornate temples and return to stone boxes. Meanwhile, I await the day- she gains her density.
Top: Chandigarh shopping district Bottom: Gandhinagar shopping along the thoroughfare
Top: Chandigarh's Suburbia Bottom: Gandhinagar's counterpart
Top: Chandigarh's duality Bottom: Gandhinagar's symmetry
Top: Corbu's decency to break up the façade Bottom: A drab Gandhinagar
An Indo Inquisition is a thirteen-week train expedition across India. The journey will document the influences of international modernism and British occupation, as well as compare the effects of wealth accumulation, culture, religion, and poverty with economic growth and their effect on the built environment.