Explore Le Corbusier’s modernist Indian metropolis

Written by Claire Carponen, The Spaces

This article was originally published by The Spaces, a digital publication exploring new ways to live and work.

Photographer Roberto Conte uncovers the hidden gems of Chandigarh’s concrete infrastructure in his new series exploring the Le Corbusier-designed Indian city. The images capture the modernist structures’ robust facades at quiet times of the day, while showing how they have weathered over the last 70 years.

“Previously, I was only aware of the famous Capitol Complex,” said Milan-based Conte, who shot the series last year on his travels through India. “But I was surprised to see there are many other interesting structures that are not (quite as) well known.”

Palace of Assembly (1951-1965) by Swiss architect Le Corbusier Credit: Roberto Conte/The Spaces

Chandigarh was designed in the 1950s as Punjab’s new state capital following the partition. Le Corbusier was tapped to design the metropolis, employing a grid street pattern, European-style boulevards and raw concrete buildings — a distillation of ideas formed across his lifetime.

Today the city faces the dual challenge of preserving its modernist heritage while adapting to the needs of an ever-growing population with changing needs.

Bandstand (1960) by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. Credit: Roberto Conte/The Spaces

“It is definitely a modern city, but at the same time, it has had difficulties in keeping up with the times,” said Conte. “From an urbanist point of view, the impression is that the districts are more like islands separated one from another by traffic-jammed roads.”

While Le Corbusier was the project’s “starchitect,” Conte notes that most of the buildings were the result of a collaboration between the Western team hired to realize Chandigarh, and a group of Indian architects and urbanists. This group includes Pritzker Prize-winning architect Balkrishna Doshi, who imbued the modernist structures with the traditions of his home country.

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