india design forum: save chandigarh
india design forum: save chandigarh
feb 05, 2012

india design forum: save chandigarh

india design forum: save chandigarh – the open hand monument by le corbusier image courtesy of arjun goel and tawish tayal




designboom will be speaking at the india design forum (IDF) held on march 9-10 in new delhi, india, organized by the colmbatore centre for contemporary art (CoCCA). it is the country’s first and most influential international design platform that poses the question:

what is the future of design and what role will india play in it?


designboom has been asked to participate in a roundtable discussion with other academics of the field, which brings awareness to the current situation in chandigarh, india. we will be preparing a video which documents our recent trip to india which features interviews by mrs. deepika gandhi, professor from the chandigarh college of architecture and mr. manmohan nath sharma, former chief architect of the city of chandigarh, who collaborated directly with le corbusier.


for a sneak peak at our video we have prepared a short teaser below.

save chandigarh teaser video © designboom





the indian city of chandigarh is one of the world’s greatest architectural treasures. considered to be le corbusier’s ‘crowning work’ the city was built in a pivotal and exceptional moment in indian history. it is one of the world’s only examples of a city constructed entirely on a plan and realized on an empty site. 60 years ago, the city was to not only serve as an urban center but also to represent india as a liberated, democratic, and forward-looking state. chandigarh, le corbusier’s largest single project, is now a city of a quarter of a million people, and is coming under pressure with regards to maintenance, growth and further densification. on all scales – its architectural buildings and detailed furnishings by pierre jeanneret, over the years, have been suffering from neglect and controversy.  

india design forum: save chandigarh designboom collaborator, the young indian architect shweta sethi talks with manmohan nath sharma image © designboom





a group of local architects, art historians and officials are hoping to mobilize international help to prevent further damage to le corbusier’s unique indian legacy. designboom visited the former collaborator of le corbusier and, despite his deteriorating health, the 90-year old sharma speaks with us about his ‘master’ and the privilege of working together on a great piece of creative art.


‘this matter is being taken very lightly by the authorities so now we need international help,’- he says.

india design forum: save chandigarh manmohan nath sharma and massimo mini, CEO of designboom image © designboom




the video which we will show in chandigarh will have a duration of 15 minutes. still a lot of work to do … we will publish it on designboom in mid-march, please stay tuned. we invite our indian readers to join us in the delhi conference for a preview.

india design forum: save chandigarh images of the secretariat building in chandigarh image © designboom


india design forum: save chandigarh mr. sharma owns a collection of le corbusier drawings and paintings image © designboom


india design forum: save chandigarh original sketch by le corbusier on a personal letter to mr. sharma image © designboom




chandigarh is also seeking the protection of a UNESCO world heritage site designation. in 2006, the ‘urban and architectural work of le corbusier in chandigarh’ was placed on UNESCO’s tentative list by the city’s tourism authority. so far it has been a quite fruitless process. before a proposal is elevated from tentative to official world heritage site nominee, the applicant must convincingly document the site’s cultural assets and a suitable plan for preservation. from local inspectors we were told that the indian government missed the deadline… we invite our readers to comment. your opinion, and strong statements of international concern may succeed where local outcry has not.


in march 2011, the italian magazines domus and abitare helped to promote international herald tribune design critic alice rawsthorn’s petition to save the city from plunder. the initiative closed in august 2011, 3386 people have signed rawsthorn’s document, unfortunately it was not enough to lobby the indian government. see a few more articles in the news, all around that time, march 2011:

the guardian, ‘le corbusier’s indian masterpiece chandigarh is stripped for parts’ by jason burke the australian, ‘plunderers ruin india’s dream city of chandigarh’ by amanda hodge the indian express ‘UT gets notice in response to PIL on le corbusier heritage’ the times of india ‘UT tells its depts to catalogue heritage items’


— india’s first international design event is held in march 2-10, 2012 in new delhi, india. the india design forum (IDF) is the country’s first and most influential international design platform. created by colmbatore centre for contemporary art (CoCCA), IDF brings the stars of the global design world together in nine exciting days dedicated to modern design. it starts with design week (2-8 march 2012) which features movie screenings, exhibitions and workshops around new delhi. the trail ends with a design forum, two days of talks by design virtuosos (march 9-10 2012) at the le méridien.

  • ‘the chandigarh experience’
    india design forum, le meridien hotel at windsor place, delhi
    friday, march 09, 2012 — presentation from 14:45 to 15:45

    designboom’s video ‘save chandigarh’ looks briefly at the history of the city,
    before turning to focus on its current state and the views regarding preservation
    vs. expansion as well as the important heritage resulting from the collaboration
    between india’s first prime minister nehru and le corbusier.
    it features interviews with professor deepika gandhi (chandigarh college of architecture)
    and mr. manmohan nath sharma (former chief architect of chandigarh).

    while it would be impossible to preserve the entire city as a static monument,
    the video closes by raising questions about the criteria campaigners might use
    to selectively preserve parts of the city while leaving open the possibility
    to build new urban scenarios around them.

    the duration of the video is 15 minutes.
    birgit lohmann, founder and editor-in-chief of designboom, will be present to join the
    discussion regarding the future actions the administrators, citizens and global community
    would need to take to save the city from its deteriorating condition.
    moderator: aman nath
    invited guests are :
    joseph grima, editor-in-chief domus magazine, italy
    justin mc guirk, design critic the guardian, UK
    kunle adeyemi, founder NLE, the netherlands

    on the same day, directly before the chandigarh film screening,
    on march 9th at 13: 45 designboom will present an overview
    of our 13 years of publishing activity — we’re the world’s first
    online design and architecture magazine!
    don’t miss it.

    birgit db
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