THE ADDRESS: House Number 57, Sector 5, once home to Swiss-born architect and furniture designer Pierre Jeanneret, who lived here for close to 11 years (1954 to 1965). One of the few houses that Jeanneret had designed in the city, the space is historically significant and especial for obvious reasons, except until now, it was in a state of neglect. But now the home of Chandigarh’s first Chief Architect and Urban Planning Designer has got a new lease of life.
For the last three weeks, restoration work has been in full swing at Jeanneret’s previous home, with the ground floor of the home all set to be turned into a museum on Jeanneret, and the upper three rooms to be restored and furnished as close to the time when the designer lived here, and be used as guest rooms.
“The house had been completely damaged by the previous occupants. The walls were broken down, doors had been changed, niches filled up, tiles had replaced the original cement flooring, stone walls had been painted, openings were changed, windows were put inside out, the beautiful fireplace was closed, colours reworked, jaalis removed. It was all in a complete mess and in a shabby condition,” says Deepika Gandhi, director, Chandigarh Architecture Museum and Le Corbusier Centre, who is involved in the restoration of the home.
It has been a painstaking work, which involved getting drawings of the house from the Urban Planning Department, procuring old photographs of the time Jeanneret lived here, working closely with members of Chandigarh Heritage Conservation Committee and conservation architects. But Gandhi says it has been all worth it, for the house is a heritage.
While the initial plan was to inaugurate the ground floor in October, conservation architects believe restoration should be done top to bottom, so that’s how work is now being completed. “Some of it was detective work, as we could not find the file of specifications, and relied on old photographs to locate some things and generate lines to figure out various elements, light fixtures, a dining cabinet etc. The drawings were regenerated, so that these were easy to understand for those who are working on the house and the Le Corbusier Foundation suggested some excavation work in the house to find links,” explains Gandhi.
The four houses of Type 4-J in a row in Sector 5, Chandigarh, were designed by Jeanneret for senior officials of the administration, but this is the only house with a spiral staircase. Jeanneret’s compact planning with a clear segregation of semi-private and private areas and his elements that cater to his aesthetics and climate are manifest here. “Climate was an important part of Jeanneret’s design, so there is amazing cross-ventilation in his buildings and homes. So, we will not be air-conditioning the place, for we want people to experience the conditions in which Jeannert lived here. We are recreating the sun-breakers he designed, which let the light bounce in, but not the sun. Here, we have instances of architecture that everyone can learn from,” says Gandhi.
Finding old electrical fittings, fixtures, furniture and rugs designed by Jeanneret to give the house a complete look, the museum will showcase the map of Chandigarh, showing Jeanneret’s work here, institutional and residential architecture, his biography, photographs, range of furniture he designed et al.