CHANDIGARH: A CONTEMPORARY UTOPIA

M. Arch, Yale School of Architecture (spring 2011, Peggy Deamer), visiting TA, “Chandigarh: A Contemporary Utopia”

The studio challenged the students to investigate the viability of utopian planning in the context of contemporary economics, material exchange, and politics to determine which aspects of Le Corbusier’s utopian plan for the Punjab capital can be sustained today. Students chose the site, program, and scale of their intervention after visiting Chandigarh and learning about contemporary urban issues. Most of the students chose to address ways to manage Chandigarh’s growth, given that the aim of its original planners to limit its size and preserve its boundaries by a greenbelt has long since been violated. A few took on the issue of the virtually dysfunctional capital complex; some confronted the issue of “boundary” as a more generic condition of both Chandigarh and utopianism. In all cases, the students had to deal with the tension between a systems approach to environmental and economic viability and a local, space-specific situation. They also learned to establish the difference between a utopian approach and good planning, determining the virtue of one over the other in light of Chandigarh’s sustainable future. Among the various ways in which the students developed their schemes—whether government-building expansions, technical parks, follies, sustainable integration of building and land, elimination of cars—the feedback from the jury of George Baird, Kadambari Baxi, Deborah Gans, John Patkau, Vikram Prankash, Vyayanathi Rao, Moshe Safdie, Michael Sorkin, and Stanislaus von Moos indicated that either utopianism was a red herring in terms of a future Chandigarh or that Chandigarh was a red herring for thinking through a contemporary utopia.

Constructs, Yale Architecture, Fall 2011, p. 22.