Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Corbusier’s vision for Chandigarh: The genius & the flaws

GS Paper 1

Indian Culture – Salient aspects of Architecture from ancient to modern times


Source: IE


Direction: The article discusses the design and planning of Chandigarh in the backdrop of a recent SC order to take a number of actions to preserve Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh.



  • The SC directed the Centre and the UT administration to take a number of steps to preserve Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh.
  • It prohibited fragmentation/ division/ bifurcation/ apartmentalisation of a residential unit in Phase­ I of Chandigarh.


  • The case dealt with The Chandigarh Apartment Rules, 2001, as per which it was permitted to subdivide single residential units into more than one apartment.
  • Though repealed in 2007, the same was reintroduced in the Draft Chandigarh Master Plan-2031.

The SC’s observations:

  • It is necessary to strike a proper balance between sustainable development and environmental protection.
  • Directed the Legislature, the Executive and the Policy Makers at the Centre and at the State levels to take note of the damage to the environment on account of haphazard developments.

The architectural history of the city of Chandigarh:

  • The city of Chandigarh was created to hold the potent promise of creativity and potential.
  • Its scale and site were decided at the national level, not at the local administrative level.
  • In 1949, then PM Jawaharlal Nehru brought in American architect-planner Albert Mayer and Polish architect Matthew Nowicki to plan a modern city.
  • They envisioned superblocks with green spaces that were sensitive to the land’s natural gradient and allowed for drainage and water.
  • However, after Nowicki’s death, Swiss-French architect-planner Le Corbusier was commissioned for the project.

Feature of Corbusier’s architectural plan:

  • The theme of his planning: ‘Care for the body and spirit’. This would fulfil four functions – living, working, movement and recreation.
  • A rectangular grid that would privilege the automobile.
    • This encouraged self-sufficient units, dividing the city into different sectors.
    • The residences fell into 13 categories based on the rank and income of the government officials who would inhabit them.
  • Garden City, where high-rise buildings were unacceptable in commercial areas.
  • His plan would have a heart, a head and hands.
    • The “head” would contain the Capital Complex, the “heart” the commercial area and the “hands” would host recreational spaces and academic institutions.

Criticism of Corbusier’s planning:

  • Eviction of locals and refugees: The city, is to be built in two phases, with Phase I containing Sectors 1 to 30 for 150,000 people, and Phase II containing Sectors 31-47 for a denser population of over 500,000.
    • To accomplish this, roughly 28,000 people were required to leave the land under the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, with the inhabitants remaining as tenants.
  • Segregating housing based on income: As a result, wage earners’ placement outside of city borders made it difficult for them to access jobs.

Conclusion: Due to the exclusion of the poor, the city of Chandigarh is known as a well-designed city rather than a well-planned city.

Insta Links:

Post-independence architecture


Mains Links:

Q. How will you explain the medieval Indian temple sculptures that represent the social life of those days? (UPSC 2022)


Prelims Links: (UPSC 2013)

With reference to the history of Indian rock-cut architecture, consider the following statements:

  1. The caves at Badami are the oldest surviving rock-cut caves in India
  2. The Barabar rock-cut caves were originally made for Ajivikas by Emperor Chandra Gupta Maurya
  3. At Ellora, caves were made for different faiths

Which of the given statements is/are correct?

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3 only
  3. 3 only
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Ans: 3