Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Authorship and modernity in Chandigarh: the Ghandi Bhavan and the Kiran Cinema designed by Pierre Jeanneret and Edwin Maxwell Fry - The Journal of Architecture

This blog will contain brief discussions from academic papers I've published elsewhere. The reason for this is to disseminate the work to a wider audience [hopefully!] and to create a forum for feedback/debate not normally possible with journal articles. It also creates a place to condense ideas into a couple of hundred words rather than the extended 6-8000 word format of the academic paper. The link below will take the reader to the full paper...

A brief synopsis

The main aim of the paper above is to discuss two buildings, with a view to understanding the developments of Modernism within Chandigarh, India. The first building is a cinema designed by Maxwell Fry, the second The Ghandi Bhavan, [a Ghandian Philosophy school] by Pierre Jeanneret.

The paper, after an extensive literature review, examines how Fry's work was instrumental in helping create the identity of Chandigarh's first 'Sector'. It did this not only through the physical presence of the cinema, but also through the films it showcased.

The style of the building invokes the 'art deco' / jazz moderne theatre that was already a familiar sight in India's metropolitan cities. The main facade faces onto a public square, taking the role of the church in the Italian piazza typology.

The Ghandi Bhavan, designed approximately ten years after the Kiran Cinema shows a very different approach to the established idea of Modernity shown in the cinema. The cinema was built in the very early stages of the cities development when materials were limited and the workforce was devoted to constructing residential units.

The Bhavan was built for the Panjab University, as the key building in its campus. Like two of Le Corbusier's buildings in Sector-1 it 'floats' on the reflection pool that surrounds it on all sides.

The building is used to house a library of Ghandian philosophy and contains a lecture theatre. However, this is really a building acting as a monument - the function is secondary. On plan it adopts a rotational symetrical pattern [perhaps invoking the Indian wheel], a contrary approach to the overt symetry of the Kiran Cinema facade. Another major difference is the use of white stone cladding - a complete departure from the exposed baton brut concrete deployed in the rest of Chandigarh. The Bhavan is also surrounded by buildings clad in red sandstone [again indicating additional wealth] possible invoking the setting of the Christi Tomb at Fatephur Sikri.

These additional materials create a link between Chandigarh and the Mughal architecture found throughout Northern India. Perhaps Jeanneret was attempting to create a visual historical link between the [pre-Imperial] Mughal dynasties and the post-colonial Independent Indian architecture. Chandigarh, of course, was not intended to have any references to India's past, or indeed any other historical references. It was to be distinctly Modern. By introducing these materials, Jeanneret was acknowledging the past, creating a historical context for the new Chandigarh buildings.

No comments:

Post a Comment