Chandigarh Weekend Watch: Photo exhibition unveils the creation of India’s first modern city

As part of the ongoing iconic week celebrations under the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav campaign, the Department of Cultural Affairs Chandigarh and the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi are jointly organizing a photography exhibition “Chandigarh – Down the Memory Lane” which celebrates the creation of India’s first modern city.

Chandigarh was declared a union territory on November 1, 1966 when Punjab was reorganized along linguistic lines into two new states – mainly Hindi-speaking Haryana and Punjabi-speaking Punjab. Additionally, Chandigarh became the shared capital of both states and the union territory. The day is commemorated as the founding day of the city.

The legislative assembly under construction.

The exhibition brings together a collection of rare and vintage photographs that show the city in its formative beginnings. Each frame reveals how, over the decades, the city has evolved and grown from the flat, arid landscape in which it was planted.

As immigrants flocked to the city in search of new moorings after being displaced by the traumatic partition, the institutional, cultural and residential buildings helped them step out of village life into a new modern way of life. These selected images capture the nearly barren city before it began to teem with people and greenery. The exhibition also acknowledges the contribution of many unknown photographers who clicked rare glimpses of the city as it emerged, each photograph capturing the many elements, ideas, inspirations, thoughts and visions that created this city.

The exhibition shows how brick has become the muse of architects for its cheap availability and ease of use.

More than 50 photographs are on display depicting the iconic buildings of Chandigarh during their construction, such as the construction of the Assembly Building, especially the hall and the massive porch, which was a technical feat given the limited resources available. Sector 17’s KC Theatre, with its unique concrete dome shape, was a landmark and saw long queues, especially on Fridays. The Neelam and Jagat Cinema in Sector 17 broke the monotony of the exhibition halls and exhibited the spirit of experimentation in concrete forms, while the Punjab University with iconic buildings like the Gandhi Bhawan and the Museum des Beaux-Arts gave an indispensable intellectual boost to the fledgling city.

Here you will have the opportunity to see the former Architects Office (now Le Corbusier Centre), the source of the city where the planning and detailing of Chandigarh was carried out by a team of dedicated architects, as well as the Capitol Complex Secretariat, the tallest building in Chandigarh with its ingenious facade.

The exhibit shows how brick has become the muse of architects for its cheap availability and ease of use, while a rare aerial view shows the MLA hostels with the Jan Marg on the right leading directly to the Capitol complex on Shivaliks background. It highlights how constructing iconic buildings like the Secretariat using unskilled labor and animals has become an inspiration to many developing countries.

Alongside the city, the exhibition pays homage to the architects of Chandigarh, whether it’s Jeanneret’s quest to find aesthetics in the humblest building materials, as evidenced by the MLA housing in Sectors 3 and 4, Maxwell Fry experimenting with prefabricated panels to create jaalis for ventilation while providing privacy to interior areas, Lake Sukhna born from the practical vision of the city’s first chief engineer, PL Varma, and the sensibility of Corbusier at its location, sports facilities such as cricket and football pitches were incorporated early into the development of the area under Corbusier’s mandate of ‘Soin du corps et de l’esprit’. Here you will also get a glimpse of the Indian team that made Chandigarh – RR Handa, HS Chopra, Jeet Malhotra, Aditya Prakash, BP Mathur, MN Sharma, MS Randhawa, UE Chowdhury and AR Prabhawalkar.

The exhibition is a celebration of the founding of a city that embodied the dreams and aspirations of thousands of Indians searching for a post-independence identity.

‘Chandigarh – Down the Memory Lane’ opens from Friday 11 March at Leisure Valley, opposite the Government Museum and Art Gallery, Sector 10, Chandigarh. The exhibition will continue until March 13, from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

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