Monday, February 26, 2007

The Open Hand

Attended a lecture on Corbusier and Chandigarh. What brought the Swiss architect and Nehru, the first Prime Minister of Indian Republic who fought for India's independence with Ghandi, together? Why would Nehru invite the westerner to design the Capital of Chandigarh, the new capitol of the Indian Punjab State?

When the British Colonial power left, they divided the Punjab State in Northwestern India into half according to religion. The silly categorization of human led to ten million people exchanging border: Muslims were forced to the Pakistani half and Hindus, or rather the rest of the non-Muslims population were forced to the Indian half. Lahore, the original capital ended up on the Pakistan side, hence Chandigarh was chosen to serve as the new capital for the Indian Punjab State.

Nehru and Corbu envisioned a modern city for the state. What they had in mind was not a modern city which imports the industrialization or market economy of the west, but a city which embraces the modern idea of independence. It was the era of Cold War, every nation has to decide which side of the two sides to take, but Nehru refused to pick either. He maintained the position of "Non-Alignment", believing in the independence of man, of nation-state. Corbu supported his vision wholeheartedly, and the Open Hand was the symbol of this partnership in faith. That was the foundation that Chandigarh and the Chandigarh Capitol project was founded upon.

We all know already Corbu's other architectural visions for Chandigarh. How he spent tremendous amount of time observing the Indian way of life, the people that he is building for, the cows that he thought was part of the plaza. He knew he had to take into account the village to the north of the capital, how the complex would be built with baskets concrete passed down on the heads of the Indian women chain. He felt with his heart, measured on site with his eyes, and went back to plan with his mind (Cubist operation). Deeply humanistic. At this point, he was rethinking about his position in archi in general. Machines and modular man helped him understand something, but it was not it. Ronchamp, La Tourette and Firminy were to follow (my personal fav).

Nehru and Corbu shared two common things: Vision + Deeply Humanistic heart. And made Chandigarh possible.