Le Corbusier Centre in Chandigarh an Enigma for Art Lovers


Chandigarh, proverbially one of the cleanest and greenest cities in India, has earned an endearing sobriquet ‘City of architectural marvels’, among many others. The Le Corbusier Centre nestled in Sector 19-B, Chandigarh, on the Madhya Marg, is one such landmark which remains an enigma for visitors from across the globe.

Entrance to the Le Corbusier Centre in Sector 19
Entrance to the Le Corbusier Centre in Sector 19

Buttressed between the imposing government office buildings and a cluster of classy manor houses, the Le Corbusier Centre, being the oldest among the landmarks dotting the city, offers glimpses from the times when the city was being conceived. A visit to this first-of-its-kind building offers a sneak-peek into the past and how hard the team Corbusier had to work despite initial hiccups it had to leapfrog.

The main porch (a closer view)- Le Corbusier Centre
The main porch (a closer view)

Once known as the Old Architect’s Office, now housing a museum, rechristened Le Corbusier Centre, it offers a flashback of the life and works of the acclaimed architects of the modern city called Chandigarh. The very idea behind raising this monument was to preserve, interpret, research, and display the legacy of Le Corbusier and others to perpetuate his memory for posterity.

The old Engineers' Administrative block
The old Engineers’ Administrative block

The main building of the Centre raised alongside the old engineers’ administrative block has the main gallery and dimly-lit rooms displaying interesting exhibits tracing the evolution of the city. These modest rooms house the archival records outlining the inception of the project, the development and speedy and integrated growth of Chandigarh, the rare archaeological findings, official letters and agreements, plans, sketches, maps and models, digital libraries, exhibition halls et al.

The Le Corbusier Centre was conceptualised and designed with the idea of its being cost-effective and climate resistant. It has the reinforced concrete shell of the porch, precast beams of the sloping roof, brick tiles for the floors, et al. The initiative was seen as a seminal attempt to introduce the concepts of ‘sustainability’ and ‘green architecture’ in the annals of modern Indian architecture.

“A modest and one of the earliest buildings constructed in Chandigarh was converted into a ‘Museum of Knowledge’ in 2008. What is the most intriguing about this historic building is the elements to turn the screen-harsh sunlight into natural light, and fresh air to enter the dimly-lit rooms housing the rare possessions. Sunlight streams in through a canopy of trees skirting the central avenue,” says Sangeeta Bagga, Sangeeta Bagga, Principal, Chandigarh College of Architecture, while talking to CityWoofer.

The Vidhan Sabha building under construction
The Vidhan Sabha building under construction

On the occasion of the 122nd birth anniversary of his colleague and cousin Pierre Jeanneret, a new chapter was added to the Centre. The Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademy in association with the Le Corbusier Centre unveiled the city’s first ever Open Hand Art Studio. There had been a persistent demand from various city-based artists and architects for suitable space to showcase their artwork, sculptures, et al. The studio was inaugurated by then Punjab governor and administrator UT, Chandigarh V P Singh Badnore.

A manhole cover designed by Pierre Jeanneret
A manhole cover designed by Pierre Jeanneret

Some city-based artists and students of Government College of Art, Sector 10, have put up eye-catching installations at the Centre, which remain the cynosure of all inquisitive eyes craving for the incredible. The students have also displayed an auto rickshaw painted to depict greenery through leaves and flowers with images of the city landmarks.

Letters, some of them written in longhand, including the one exchanged between the then PM Jawaharlal Nehru and Chief Minister of Punjab, Pratap Singh Kairon invite spot attention.  The dream project was inaugurated by the then Governor of Punjab-cum-Administrator UT, Chandigarh, Gen (retd) S.F. Rodrigues, on October 6, 2008.

Le Corbusier discussing a point with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

Le Corbusier discussing a point with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru

The office where Le Corbusier and his team sweated it out and designed the city’s landmark architectural marvels was tipped as the most appropriate to set up the proposed museum to perpetuate the memory of the visionary.

Entrance to Souvenir Shop and Open Hand Art Studio - Le Corbusier Centre

Entrance to Souvenir Shop and Open Hand Art Studio

There is a souvenir shop, being run by the Society for Tourism and Entertainment Promotions (STEPS). The heritage shop offers a range of heritage items to choose from, including postcards, stationery items and minuscule models of furniture items designed and developed by Pierre Jeanneret, making your visit worth cherishing.

The Centre remains open from 10 am to 6 pm on all days except Monday and other gazetted holidays. There are no entry charges as of now.

(The writer , Ramesh K Dhiman, is a former staffer of The Tribune and freelance writer. He has written extensively for leading newspapers and magazines on art, culture, mythology, besides travelogues.)




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Kishore Kumar Sharma
Kishore Kumar Sharma
1 year ago

Very well written article which made me to remember myself being present on it’s innagural day being member of STEPS. Sh V N Singh director was also good friend and a very nice person… Although Le Corbusior is hailed as the artitech of Chandigarh but I suppose it were Albert Mayer and Mathew Novicki from America primarily responsible for the design which with some modifications Le Corbusior executed… Through the city was designed mavellously but all the planners abjectly failed to put soul into it… still it is striving hard to be recognised as a cultural city…