Why is Chandigarh called the city beautiful

University of Cologne

    We arrived in Chandigarh yesterday. Completely different from the previously visited Indian cities, the modern capital of the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, planned by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier, impresses above all with a straight road network, order and cleanliness. The city, which was built in the 1950s, is divided into clearly delimited sectors, and on a first foray you soon notice: the residents of Chandigarh seem to be proud of their city - and how!

    Today there is a lot on the program: The highlight is to be a visit to the Capitol complex, which attracts architecture-loving tourists from all over the world. Leisure Valley and the Punjab University are also on the agenda. But at first everything turns out differently than expected.

    COVID-19, the virus that has been sitting on our necks the whole time, is making a huge mess of things (unfortunately not for the last time) - because the Capitol complex is completely sealed off and nobody can come in. Especially no tourists (who we are mistakenly classified as). The mood is now slightly depressed. The situation seems to be coming to a head and the further implementation of the excursion is on the brink.

    Fortunately, we got local support. Since the morning we have been accompanied by Professor Surinder Aggarwal, a good friend of Frau Kraas, and also a respected urban geographer himself. Coincidentally, he lives not far from Chandigarh. Who would be better suited to bring us closer to the city in which he himself lived for several years? With Professor Aggarwal we set off from the sealed-off Capitol complex, from which we can only catch a glimpse of the secretariat from a distance, towards the university and PGIMER (Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research) in the north-west of the city in sectors 12 and 14. Here follows a short tour of the university campus, during which we are viewed critically from all sides. At least we can partially understand the brutalist architecture that would have awaited us in the Capitol complex, because the university buildings were also planned in the same style by Le Corbusier (and his cousin).

    From here we continue to explore the city in small groups. Each one undertakes to analyze a different sector, and finally we compare them. It is noticeable how much the sectors differ from one another.

    In Sector 9, pompous solitary buildings line the clean, green streets. The impressive entrance gates are partly guarded by porters. Private schools and high-priced, partly international offers in the central shopping street characterize the center of the sector. According to the signs on the gates, primarily lawyers who also work at the High Court live here. Right next door is Sector 17, which functions as the city center of the city. The rather tall buildings in the center are characterized by retail and service offerings on the first two floors, but above them there is a yawning emptiness. The concrete facades look weathered and shabby. In Sector 21 there are numerous single and multi-family houses, apparently mainly families live here. The sector seems to be in a state of upheaval, because you can see brisk modernization and renovation work on every corner. Sector 35, in turn, in which our hotel is located, has primarily established itself as a gastronomy and nightlife sector with many hotels.

    On the other hand, there are aspects that the sectors have in common, such as educational institutions, numerous parks and children's playgrounds, and shopping opportunities, which can be found in each individual sector. The city was originally planned as a bicycle or pedestrian city, Professor Aggarwal told us that morning. You can still find remnants of that all over the city if you look closely. In addition to the sporadically used bike paths, you can also find public air pressure gauges that have long since seen their prime. In the meantime, the city has evidently developed into a stronghold of motorized individual transport - no wonder with the wide streets!

    During the recap in the evening it becomes clear once again how much Chandigarh differs from “typical” Indian cities like Delhi - especially with regard to the way the inhabitants deal with the city. The traffic seems to be more regulated, the green spaces are more well-kept. In Leisure Valley, the city's green lung, and in other parks, the flowers smell, people jog and bike. The general atmosphere seems much quieter in comparison. That is India too!

    Laura boys


     

    We spent the fifth and sixth day of the excursion in Chandigarh, a city that was planned by the city planner and architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s. This is the only urban planning implemented by the visionary architect.

    An evening stroll in the Leisure Valley made it clear that Chandigarh is a very special Indian city. The Leisure Valley, a park that stretches 8 kilometers from north to south of the city is characterized by a variety of different gardens, such as the hibiscus garden, the scent garden, the rose garden, the Japanese garden and many more. Even most of the public parks in Germany are not that well maintained!
    The brutalist architecture that is omnipresent in Chandigarh gives the cityscape a unique atmosphere. Since the city of Chandigarh was supposed to represent a new and independent India, the modern architectural style of brutalism was used for the development of the buildings in order to illustrate the post-colonial and promising future of the country.

    Brutalism polarizes and is certainly not the most popular architectural style, but the serenity that the simple geometric shapes of the buildings exude is what defines the flair of Chandigarh.

    The simplicity of the buildings exudes a calm that can hardly be found in Indian cities. The Chandigarhs capitol complex (which was unfortunately closed during our stay) makes the city a '' place of pilgrimage '' for architects and represents the highlight of Le Corbusier's late work.

    The 'City Beautiful', as Chandigarh is also called, lives up to its name in every respect! The people of Chandigarh are proud of their city. Extremely curious, friendly and helpful, we were welcomed as 'tourists' in this city.

    The autonomous sectors planned by Le Corbusier are self-sufficient, which means that residents can meet their basic needs within the sector (local supplies, doctors, education, etc.). In each sector there are also green spaces that invite residents to socialize. As a union territory, Chandigarh is symbolic of cohesion, reconciliation and peace.

    In Chandigarh, Le Corbusier turns his utopia into reality. According to our assessment, which we were able to gain during a two-day stay in Chandigarh, Le Corbusier has succeeded in implementing his town planning. The calm and cleanliness that Chandigarh exudes is admirable (especially unique in the Indian context) and thus the 'City Beautiful' clearly stands out from the everyday hustle and bustle of Indian cities and makes Chandigarh a very special city.

    Frederik Metzger