LE CORBUSIER- Mastering the Image

The story of the architecture of Chandigarh and Le Corbusier is a landmark of Nehruvian Modernism in Modern India. The success and failures of Le Corbusier's vision for the modern city is still debated but it has had an undeniable influence on the architecture of India.

The recent show at the Bangalore NGMA showcased the architectural legacy of Le Corbusier. It does have a small connection with B angalore's past vision as a "Garden city" and "Pensioner's Paradise". Another interesting connection was the romantic association of Le Corbusier with Minnette de Silva, who was an important pioneer of architecture in post-independence Sri Lanka, lived in Edward Road in Bangalore, and worked for another pioneering architect Otto Koenigsberger who developed his tropical architecture expertise as a response to the climatic conditions of Mysore. Koenigsberger built several prominent buildings, contributing significantly to the city's aesthetics.

Jonathan Glancey says that Le Corbusier called concrete the molten rock of the 20th century. He sculpted the buildings. Working in a building designed by him is unlike working in any other. It is a sculptural space, lending itself to creativity. There are flip sides, though. Concrete is harsh to look at, and Le Corbusier did not get the climate control right: in the summer, with seven months of searing heat, it gets very hot, and in the winter, it is very cold.

Le Corbusier influenced Minnette's work, whom she met when a friend took her to his studio in Paris. They met again at the International Congress of Modern Architects. "He was," wrote Minnette, "greatly attracted by his first live contact with 'l'Inde.' I think he romanticised our meeting... Since then, I have been deeply touched by his sympathy and interest in my work. His was an enduring, understanding friendship, pure and simple. At the time, I hardly realised the great honour. "Le Corbusier wrote to her often, sketching buildings and people, signing his letters with a cartoon of a smiley crow and addressing her as "small bird of the islands."

Minnette De Silva (1918-1998), was part of the cultural and political circles, which included Mulk Raj Anand, Homi Bawa. She later became the architectural editor for Marg. Minnette who had worked for Koenigsberger in Bangalore in 1944, was a founding member, and the magazine's architectural editor. De Silva also represented Marg at the CIAM conference in Bridgwater in 1947, where her task was to introduce the group and the magazine to the assembled international modern architectural luminaries.

"The city of Chandigarh is planned to human scale. It puts us in touch with the infinite cosmos and nature. It provides us with places and buildings for all human activities by which the citizens can live a full and harmonious life. Here the radiance of nature and heart are within our reach." says Le Corbusier