The city of Chandigarh, bordering the states of Punjab and Haryana in northern India, was designed between 1950 and 1964. Le Corbusier agreed to oversee the new city’s master plan in December 1950, at the peak of his career as an architect. Throughout the project’s fourteen-year duration, he also completed masterworks such as the United Nations Secretariat Building in New York and Notre-Dame du Haut, a Catholic chapel in Ronchamp, France.
The creation of Chandigarh was instigated by India’s Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru after the former regional capital, Lahore, became part of Pakistan in 1947, during India’s postindependence partition. Nehru saw Chandigarh as key to his ambitious, comprehensive program of modernization and social and economic reforms. The city, initially designed for 500,000 inhabitants, includes buildings for government, commerce, education, and health within carefully delineated sectors, at the heart of which stands the Assembly Hall—an important ideological and political space designed to crystallize India’s nascent national identity.
In the sculptural mound of the roof structure in this model, the assembly building clearly stands out against the cityscape, echoing the Himalayan foothills that tower against the surrounding flat, arid terrain. Le Corbusier’s obsession with primary geometric elements as fundamental architectural tools is evident. He said, “Our eyes are made to see forms in the light...cubes, cones, spheres, cylinders or pyramids are the great primary forms.”
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)