A Visit to the Chandigarh Architecture Museum

Image caption: Set up in 1997, the Chandigarh Architecture Museum showcases the history and urban development of the city through original drawings and sketches, architectural models, historical documents, and photographs. Image courtesy: Wikicommons.

By

Deepak Srinath

Date

15.08.2016

The Chandigarh Architecture Museum is one of my favourite buildings in Chandigarh. Designed and completed by architect S.D. Sharma, a protégé of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, the building draws inspiration from the design of the Pavillon Le Corbusier in Zurich.

Origin Story of Chandigarh

The Chandigarh Architecture Museum is one of three buildings that lie within the Sector 10 museum complex. Also known as the City Museum, this has always been my favourite museum in Chandigarh. The story of this city's creation came alive for me within this building.

The building that houses the Architecture Museum was designed by architect Shivdatt Sharma, who trained directly under Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret.

The basic design of the building is based on a building created by Le Corbusier as an exhibition pavilion in Zurich, Switzerland. Following Corb's death, Ar. Sharma was entrusted with the task of designing the building for the City Museum and overseeing its creation.

The museum building had to be conceptualised and designed in a way that was congruous with the adjacent Government Art Museum. The building is a fabulous example of modernism done the right way. I have had the privilege of meeting Ar. Sharma and hearing him speak his about this building.

Image caption: A letter written by P.L. Thapar informing the Chief Minister of Punjab about Le Corbusier’s acceptance of the project.
Image caption: An excerpt from a letter written by architect Matthew Nowicki days before his death.

The Art Museum and the Science Museum, the other two museums in the Sector 10 museum complex, are usually bustling with school children and tourists.

The Architecture Museum is seldom crowded; the few visitors who are spotted inside are either foreign visitors seeking to explore Le Corbusier’s legacy or those with a slightly bewildered air of having accidentally wandered in.

Image caption: Le Corbusier tapestry in the background.
Image caption: Furniture exhibited at the Chandigarh Architecture Museum.

Unrealised Vision of Norwicki

The museum displays original letters and correspondence between administrators and the architects who created Chandigarh’s blueprint.

Original drawings and plans for the city are displayed along with photographs of the developing city in various stages. A framed excerpt from a letter written by the architect Matthew Nowicki just two weeks before his death is particularly poignant.

Nowicki, along with Albert Mayer, was originally chosen to plan and build the new city. He died tragically in a plane crash over Cairo on a trip back to the U.S. from Chandigarh and subsequently Le Corbusier was commissioned to take over.

Image caption: Furniture exhibit at the Chandigarh Architecture Museum.

The museum has a fine collection of original pieces and recent reproductions that represent many of the designs created for Chandigarh. A recreation of Pierre Jeanneret’s living room gives one an intimate sense of the person Jeanneret was.

Image caption: Recreation of Pierre Jeanneret’s living room furniture at the Chandigarh Architecture Museum.

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