Why is Chandigarh so boring

Äppler's blog

We reached the actual destination of this excursion early in the afternoon on the eleventh day. Chandigarh. We were on the road for ten days, covered hundreds of kilometers, saw and experienced incredible things. And now this city lay before us. Rather, a town that tourists can only pass by on their way to the Himalayas. If you ever get lost in this area. Only architects come often. Because Chandigarh was built in the 1950s according to Le Corbusier's plans and has probably the highest density of buildings by the old master in the world. Chandigarh is the capital of the then newly founded Punjab and most of the representative government buildings were designed by LeCorbusier. The rest of the city is divided into sectors, each of which is subject to relatively strict use. For example, the shopping sector 17 and the nightlife and restaurant sector 35. The residential sectors offer a low density and a high variety of forms of living, and not just by Indian standards. Most of the buildings were planned by architects close to Le Corbusier, such as his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, and offer a very high quality of living which is particularly appreciated by wealthy pensioners from Delhi. The sectors are separated by large, multi-lane roads which still ensure relaxed and completely atypical India traffic conditions.

Our destination for the day was the government district. However, the political situation here, not far from the Pakistani border, is not exactly relaxed. A visit to the government building requires extensive preliminary planning with lots of permits and waiting times on site. In addition, numerous checkpoints have to be passed at head height with automatic guns pointing out, which is not one of the most pleasant things I have ever done. At least we got a short tour of the ministries secretariat and access to a viewing platform on the roof. We were also allowed to marvel briefly from the inside of the high court. The very interesting parliament building was unfortunately not available to us because there was a meeting on that day. All buildings are made of rough exposed concrete and at first glance appear brutal and cool like many of the Swiss buildings. The quality of the rooms is only noticeable on site and is due to numerous very different factors such as proportions and room sequences, but also ventilation and shading, which have been linked in a highly intelligent manner and adapted to the external conditions of this location. Unfortunately, the building is in a miserable condition and will probably have to be closed soon for safety reasons if no renovation work is carried out.

On the penultimate day, the group split into two parts. Rainer, a German architect who once lived in India and accompanied us on the trip, had offered to visit an architect friend of his in Dehra Dun, not too far away, who wanted to show us a project that was under construction. In addition, Dehra Dun is located directly at the foot of the Himalayas and there was the possibility to visit an old British hill station and sniff a little mountain air. That sounded convincing. With two cars with 7 passengers each, we set off in the morning while the rest of the day was spent in Chandigarh for shopping and relaxing. Unfortunately, the road to Dehra Dun consisted for the most part of a curvy gravel road, which made the journey uncomfortable. It wasn't boring though, as there was enough to see outside. We crossed beautiful landscapes and some small villages and saw gangs of monkeys sitting by the roadside from time to time. Apart from the Indian traffic and the trucks that were coming head-on up to the last moment, it was actually a very pleasant journey. Due to a flat tire, however, it took us just under 4.5 hours for the 170km so that we were all happy to finally be able to leave the narrow car.

The construction site to be visited turned out to be a really interesting project. An oil drilling company is building one of India's first “green buildings” there. The spectacular, albeit somewhat oblique, design envisions a grassy hilly landscape that is supposed to refer to the nearby mountains of the Himalayas and into which round light wells are dug. Not exactly my taste but at least one of the few really modern buildings we visited in the two weeks. The architects in charge of the construction welcomed us with pride and accompanied us on a tour of the construction site, which was still under construction, which included climbing some adventurous scaffolding structures. The construction site conditions were particularly interesting. Masses of workers scurried around the building and used every opportunity to greet us briefly or to watch us from a distance. Some of them worked at dizzying heights on the shell. The seat belts, which were certainly present, were often a few meters further on the floor. A worker was mixing mortar in an old construction helmet. It must be said that realizing such an amorphous concrete structure and a green building according to modern standards under such construction site conditions is certainly a considerable achievement.

In the afternoon we curled up an almost 20km long serpentine road to Mussoorie. The old British Hill Station is located at almost 2000m on a ridge and usually offers breathtaking views, on the one hand of the plains towards Dehra Dun, on the other hand of the mountains of the Himalayas up to a few 6000m. On this day, however, thick clouds of fog hung between the mountains and denied us this spectacle. So all we had to do was take a quick look at the town, sniff the pleasantly clear and cool mountain air and then make our way back. Because dinner was already waiting for us down in Dehra Dun. The last evening in India we spent on the roof terrace of the Indian architect who had also shown us around the construction site with a cold beer and lots of grilled chicken tandoori. A decent end. Unfortunately we had to come back to Chandigarh afterwards. The return trip was much faster thanks to the empty streets. However, the overtaking trucks with headlights that were always coming in the front made the journey uncomfortable. Another flat tire forced us to take a short break before we got back to Chandigarh sometime around midnight, exhausted but alive.

For the last day there was another highlight on the program. M.N. Sharma was the chief Indian architect when building Chandigarh and quasi the representative of LeCorbusier when he was not in India. The man is now 86 years old and still lives in Chandigarh and he invited us to his home to tell us a little about the time the city was built. Unfortunately, a number of factors, in addition to the large group, mainly background noise and the weak voice of the old man, made it difficult to really follow him. Nevertheless, some interesting anectodes from another time came around. The rest of the day everyone could stroll through Chandigarh for themselves, buy some last souvenirs, pay a visit to the city museum or relax in the hotel and pack suitcases. In the evening we first took the train to Delhi where a bus was ready for us and took us to the airport. There we had to pass the time from 0:00 to 5:00 in the morning before we could really get on the plane and fall asleep.

On the move with Indian Railways

Chandigarh government district

Secretariat of the Ministries

In the high court

The open hand

Chandigarh by night

Chandigarh by day

On the way to Dehra Dun

A couple of monkeys on the side of the road

Flat tire on the way

Construction site ONGC headquarters

wobbly staircases

Mussoorie with no view

Guest at M N Sharma / p>

Chandigarh Museum

There are many more pictures on FlickR ...

AMAZING AGRA (days 8-10)

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