October 28, 2021

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Explore Le Corbusier’s modernist metropolis in India

Explore Le Corbusier's modernist metropolis in India

Written by Claire Carponen, The Spaces

This article was originally published by Spaces, digital publications that explore new ways to live and work.

Photographer Roberto Conte unveiled the hidden gems of Chandigarh’s concrete infrastructure in his new series exploring the Indian city designed by Le Corbusier. The images capture the strong facades of modernist structures in the quiet time of the day, while showing how they have survived for the past 70 years.

“Before, I only knew the famous Capitol Complex,” said Milan-based Conte, who made the series last year on his journey through India. “But I am surprised to see that there are many other interesting structures that are not (quite well known).”

Palace Assembly (1951-1965) by Swiss architect Le Corbusier Credit: Roberto Conte / The Spaces

Chandigarh was designed in the 1950s as the capital of the new state of Punjab after partition. Le Corbusier was tapped to design the metropolis, using squares, European-style streets and raw concrete buildings – a distillation of ideas that formed throughout his life.

Today the city faces a dual challenge of preserving its modernist heritage while adapting to the needs of a growing population with changing needs.

Bandstand (1960) by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. Credit: Roberto Conte / The Spaces

“This is clearly a modern city, but at the same time, it is difficult to keep up with the times,” Conte said. “From an urbanist’s point of view, the impression is that the districts are more like islands separated from each other by traffic jams.”

While Le Corbusier was the “architectural star” of the project, Conte noted that most of the building was the result of collaboration between a Western team hired to realize Chandigarh, and a group of Indian architects and urbanists. This group included Pritzker Prize-winning architect Balkrishna Doshi, who instilled a modernist structure with the traditions of his native country.
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