Modern India: a new tome delves into the Le Corbusier-built city of Chandigarh

Modern India: a new tome delves into the Le Corbusier-built city of Chandigarh

A land constantly striving to update itself, India still lags somewhat behind the Western ideals of modern civilisation. However, the country houses one city that truly was created for the modern world: the Le Corbusier-built Punjab capital Chandigarh.

Chandigarh is in India looks at the landscape of the Punjab state, sometimes away from the concrete aesthetics that marks its modernism, shining a spotlight on the overridden beauties and quirks. Edited by Shanay Jhaveri and launched during the Dhaka Art Summit earlier this year, the tome wonders off path with a selection of artworks by Western and Eastern artists of their visions of the mesmerising area. The visuals are accompanied by a strong political standpoint, seen in essays by the likes of Devika Singh and Erika Balsom, allowing the reader to question presumptions they may have had of Chandigarh.

‘Many people argue about it, some dislike it, some like it. It is totally immaterial whether you like it or not; it is the biggest thing in India of this kind,’ Jhaveri explains. The sheer impact of the city’s creation is addressed in the opening of the book. Jhaveri includes an image of the notice board in the check-in office for the Secretariat in 1955, claiming that the land was going to become a new place, representative of the freedom of the country (a bold claim indeed).

With this scope, the photographs and artworks touch on all aspects of the state, from the magnificence of nature in The Indian Palm by Parisian artist Cyprien Gaillard, to Manuel Bougot’s intimate images of private homes of residents, capturing interiors from 2010–2011. These spaces are adorned with the tropes of traditional and ornamental living, with occasional injections of modern furniture.

Along the way we see the futurist visuals of the concrete architecture, abstractly shot by the likes of Yamini Nayar and Seher Shah. Meanwhile, we are invited to see the influence the cityscape had on furniture and fashion design, from the ’Chandigarh’ sofa for Moroso to Berluti’s S/S 2016 silhouettes, directly inspired by capital.

All wrapped up in a warm Asian-style palette of yellow and purple, it is pleasing to see that the rich and vibrant colour is one that can never really be changed or contested. ‘This book in part is an attempt to release Chandigarh from itself,’ Jhaveri concludes – a reassuring sentiment for such a complex and singular place.

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