Forty years ago, we lost a kind of leadership which inspires creativity. With Le Corbusier’s passing away, a voice which talked of a new vision of the world was taken away from our midst. In the 1950s all architects in India were steeped in patterns of thought that had come to us from our British education and Indian experience. We thought about architecture and planning in terms that had evolved through 150 years of British occupation.
Corbusier through his works in India opened up new possibilities which, we have not yet been able to integrate into our architecture.
This visionary had to fight our conventions of thought. He proposed cities where buildings were lifted off the ground on ‘pilotis’ or pillars and simultaneously terraces became gardens.
Huge vistas of green would have opened up on the ground and regained the lost open space on the terraces again. Concrete, his chosen material would have made this possible.
What we did was to adopt this method without understanding its full potential. We lifted buildings off the ground but filled the space so achieved with characterless, ugly parking etc. Yet this vision was not just for single buildings but for the entire planning of cities.
City planning could have changed the urban space by thinking in three dimensions. That way all infrastructure and the movements that cities are cluttered with would have been replaced by a new landscape which integrated architecture and city planning.
All is not lost however. We must remember that it took us a century to digest and integrate the new stimuli that came to our country.
British building types and elements such as the bungalow and verandah became part of our everyday language through slow assimilation and evolution. Perhaps we need time and our steps in integrating the massive stimulation of Corbusier’s work may well bear fruit.
Original article in the Times of India