Corbusier snubbed by Hitler, blessed by Nehru.

A little while ago I had written about Lost Opportunities and Heroic Visions of architects in India, just after Independance. Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn are two architects that laid out the philosophical guidelines, that led to the expansion of a new vocabulary of Indian architecture in the decades after 1947.

Today, the Indian Express has an interesting article titled

“Did Nehru allow Corbusier what Hitler denied?

Architect had dreamt of building new Berlin, but was refused.

CHANDIGARH’S master architect Le Corbusier’s little known aspiration was to build the new Berlin in Germany in 1940s — as envisaged by Adolf Hitler. But, as his dream remained unfulfilled after Hitler refused to heed to Corbusier, the City Beautiful became a reality instead.

Architect-historian from Switzerland Prof Pierre Frey today revealed that the fascist links of the Swiss-French Corbusier came to light when his letters to his mother were published in France in the last decade.

”In one of the letters, Corbusier had written in the 1940s that Hitler will allow him to build the kind of city that he always wanted to. Corbusier was looking for commitment from Hitler, which never came. The architect also went to Italy to meet Mussolini, but was turned down again. He then migrated to the USA,” said Frey, while talking to Newsline today at Chandigarh College of Architecture”

And, if Frey is to be believed, the grid-based design of Chandigarh, which is a clear adaptation of the old Roman cities, has a semblance to the fascist forces through its clear north-south divide, besides the distance of the Capitol Complex and the Secretariat – the houses of governance – from the residential area.

”In fact, all planning for the poor and less-privileged of the city was done by fellow architect Pierre Jeanneret and not by Corbusier,” added Prof Frey, who minced no words in criticising Corbusier, even as Indian architects gathered at the college defended Corbusier’s healthy contribution to the city. Frey went on to add that Corbusier’s ”star image” might fade in the next 20 years and come down to a more deserving level. ”Corbusier had a rage to build. Though he tried to satiate it in Europe, he finally accomplished it here in Chandigarh,” summed up the professor.

2 Comments

  1. Michael H. December 2, 2005

    Hi Arzan
    Have you ever been to Chandigarh? I recall that you are an architect major (or something like that). I would think that Chandigarh might be an interesting place to visit for an architect major.

    Personally, I like cities that are not too planned. I don’t like the perpetual strip mall of the suburbs but a place like Chrystal City that was all planned by a single firm doesn’t appeal to me much either. I like a place that has grown its own character.

  2. arZan December 2, 2005

    Michael

    I’ve been to Chandigarh a few times. As an architect and urban designer, I love the place and can relate to its ethos a lot more than say, the residents.

    In the Indian context, the city stands out like a sore thumb because all major cities in India are organic and not as planned as Chandigarh.

    A must visit for anyone going to India….hint !! hint !!

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