Indo Inquisition

13 weeks in India



Jul '12 - Jan '13

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    Corbu's Suburbia?

    By amlocke
    Aug 18, '12 7:00 PM EST

    If one ever wished to dabble in India, to have just a teaspoon, one should sample India Lite, aka Chandigarh. It has all the taste of India, with half the beggars, trash, and touts. The result of a 1950's one-night stand between East Berlin and suburbia USA, Chandigarh is like no city I have witnessed. As a whole, it is without density, variety or eccentricity; and the beauty of exposed concrete is diluted by its overuse and subsequent lack of maintenance. The sector scale possesses a familiar aura of pleasant suburban homeliness, with the assemblage of varying materiality and form, thus bringing about visual stimulation. This, I believe, is where Chandigarh is most successful. However, the sum of the whole is not greater than its parts, as the accumulation of sectors results in a vast desert, often with no sidewalks, and accessible only by the automobile.

    As the 1950s believed in the future of the automobile, so did Corbu, but so much so that Chandigarh is still bound to her asphalt today. No light rail or tram system exists, as there lacks the density to permit such expenditures. The vast amount of beautiful green space goes widely under utilized, let alone maintained. The result- pockets of overgrown cow pastures with rusty playground extremities.

    Chandigarh is home to many wealthy patrons. Similarities could be drawn between the hills of Hollywood and the Northern streets of Sector 7. The homes are complete with armed guards, and branded like cattle with marble and brass plaques proclaiming their names and capitalist ranks. Every home is tinted to some extent, some more than others, with a pinch of Corbu. It is here within the sector where variety and wealth flourish.

    Sector 17, the "heart of the city" shopping district

    The beautiful, yet underutilized rose garden

    The inner shopping district of Sector 7

    A tiny stream cuts through the entire city creating its green belt

    A common site on the suburban streets of the inner sector


    • I absolutely love seeing Brutalist concrete covered with ad hoc signage and chaos.  Something about the temporary and the permanence in contrast makes me giddy.

      Aug 19, 12 8:54 am  · 

      Again with Corbu.  When is the romance with an architect responsible for so much ugliness and destruction going to end?  Just take this statement.

      "the beauty of exposed concrete is diluted by its overuse and subsequent lack of maintenance." 

      Of course exposed concrete can be beautiful and even make some people giddy, but there never seems to be an acknowledgement from the profession that the general public associates exposed concrete with infrastructure projects, and not of the WPA variety.  The buildings in this series of photographs are all worthless and had any other architect done them they wouldn't be given a second look, but since the master 'Corbu' did them, we are discussing them.  Architects continue to be irrelevant to most of the public becasue we refuse to come down to the level of where most people live.

      Aug 21, 12 8:51 am  · 

      The contrast between the aging and maturation of the landscape, versus the aging of the structures here is stark. The hodge-podge of signage and occupant alterations against the concrete structures feels almost like something out of a Philip K. Dick novel.

      The real question that I'd like to know is what the occupants and dwellers of the city think and feel about their surroundings and built environment. Are they able to find contentment and see the beauty that we, as architects, speak so fondly of in this work? Or are they frustrated by the constraints of these aged structures and unable to see the original design intent?

      They make for attractive pictures for us to look at, but what is it like to live with them?

      Aug 22, 12 8:59 am  · 

      Perhaps it is helpful to distinguish between Architecture -- a high art, practiced by the few whose names we all know -- and architecture, which the rest of us practice (literally) our whole lives ?

      Thus there are three kinds of building: Architecture, architecture, and mere construction. When we look at the work of an Architect, we expect more, and we look for the art in whatever that person gets built.  And the question is, "When and where is Architecture appropriate, and when is architecture (assuming we get the chance)  -- or mere building -- called for ?

      On another forum the other day the subject of the Farnsworth house arose.  I offer that this structure was built in the wrong place (the site floods) and for the wrong client (she fought the intended effect of the artist's work).  It's still a worthy example of Architecture.

      Would Chandigarh's users have been better served by an architect than by an Architect ?

      Aug 24, 12 7:47 pm  · 
      Sorrowful Giuseppe

      Lets have people come up where we, architects live...

      Aug 26, 12 11:19 pm  · 

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About this Blog

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.

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  • amlocke

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