The style pioneered during initial years of Chandigarh’s development still holds valuable lessons for achieving goal of housing for all.
With three renowned architects taking charge of designing Chandigarh, which included Pierre Jeanneret, Jane B Drew and Maxwell Fry, high degree of economy in the housing cost was achieved,” says Jit Kumar Gupta, former director, College of Architecture, Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET), Bhaddal.
A 2011 study by the ministry of housing and urban affairs pegged the housing shortage in the country at 18.76 million in urban areas, of which the EWS (economically weaker section) segment and in LIG (low income group) housing comprised 96%.
Recently, speaking at a conference in New Delhi, the Union minister of housing and urban affairs Hardeep S Puri said subsequent assessments led to a revision of this figure and in the final analysis and the shortage is likely to be around or in excess of 10 million units, a sizable number and remains a tough target.
In Punjab as well, the challenge for ‘housing for all poses its own challenges. The task force on Urban Housing Shortage in Punjab in 2012 estimated the shortage at 0.39 million dwelling units. Even though the percentage of poverty rate reduced from 15-20% in 2001 to 10-11% in 2011, the share of poor families is high in big cities of Punjab.
“Major determinants of Chandigarh architecture, urban form and low cost housing designs, were stringent budget and strict adherence to it, which made the city a low density and low rise city with government housing forming bulk of construction. Since the city was built on a new site, the greatest challenge was to provide large housing stock for government employees who were to be shifted to the new city,” says Gupta.
Availability of funds for the Chandigarh project shaped architectural decisions. “The funds available for the new city at the time were scarce and there was more emphasis on making everything economical, but at the same time not sacrificing harmony, utility and aesthetics of the architecture.
To achieve this, focus was on laid on low cost options both in terms of materials used and the design elements. Jeanneret, Drew and Fry did most of the housing and social infrastructure. Jeanneret was an innovative mind and helped use innovative methods to economise construction,” says SD Sharma, architect, Chandigarh Project, 1963-73.