Tag Archives: Chandigarh

The Road Less Traveled is the overarching title given to a  yearlong series of exhibitions programmed at the Kohler Arts Center to celebrate its 50th Birthday Anniversary  – including a major exhibition on Indian artist and visionary environment creator, Nek Chand. The Arts Center has the largest collection of Nek Chand sculptures outside of the Rock Garden in Chandigarh – and they’ve put 200 sculptures on show in an extraordinary exhibition.


Curator Karen Patterson was looking for a more collaborative and creative approach to curating the shows and selected a responder for each exhibition to bring new and unique insights to the work and the final shows.

Karen asked me to send her a few ideas on how Nek Chand’s sculptures might be presented and exhibited. We met in Liverpool and discussed a range of concepts, including developing a virtual reality film of the Rock Garden [something I’m really eager to do]. We spoke about the experiential, almost cinematic nature of the Rock Garden – and how it is arranged as a series of distinct ‘outside rooms’ or events. Moving through the space and watching the sculptures being ‘revealed’, hidden, and glimpsed through this process is crucial in Nek Chand’s work.

It was also a decade since I completed my PhD research – and I felt it was a good time to revisit my measured drawings and catalogue of the Rock Garden. Karen agreed to exhibit my survey work and I got the catalogue reprinted at A3 size and its 250+ pages hard bound. I really enjoyed ‘re-discovering’ my old work. The survey drawings had been kept rolled up in a plastic tube for ten years, and I carefully extracted the coil of drawings, not knowing in what condition they might be in. Thankfully, they were exactly as I’d left them- tattered at the edges, full of rips, holes and dog-eared corners. I sent them off to the Arts Center, hoping they wouldn’t get lost in the post…


The catalogues of Nek Chand’s work


I arrived at the Arts Centre a few days before the official opening, having seen the CAD drawings of the proposed show, produced by the exhibition designer and co-curator Amy Chaloupka. There’s always a disconnect between an architectural drawing and what it represents – and this was no exception. The scale of the exhibition is vast – and the amount of work required to produce, install and prepare the ‘terrain’ is incredible. One really gets a sense of what it is like to be in the Rock Garden – without there being any sense of pastiche or mimicry. The sculptures are arranged according to type on a series of terraced podiums that sweep through the space, compressing the visitor into a narrow gorge-like passage where the sculptures are densely arranged facing into the walkway. This approach puts the sculptures at eye level and really enables a dialogue to emerge between the viewer and the figures.  As well as the concrete sculptures there is a collection of the cloth works – an often overlooked component of Nek Chand’s work – they are again arranged as a group and tightly gathered so that they read as an ensemble of works that need to be walked around, and examined.

In addition to Nek Chand’s sculptures there is an archway reminiscent of the Phase-3 part of the Rock Garden. Contained within this segment of the exhibition are four panoramic photographs, the catalogue and the survey drawings.


Installing the Drawings…


Panoramic photos and drawings. The catalogue sits on the perspex stand.


Survey drawings of the Rock Garden

You can find out more about the other wonderful exhibitions here: and there will be a conference on 26th-28th September 2017. None of this is to be missed….


Chandigarh Exhibitions in Canada and Belgium

There are two exhibitions on the architecture and planning of Chandigarh currently on show – one at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, and the other by Archipel at Kortrijk, Belgium.

The CCA exhibition is entitled How architects, experts, politicians, international agencies and citizens negotiate modern planning: Casablanca Chandigarh, and has been curated by Maristella Casciato and Tom Avermaete. It runs until 20th April 2014 and a publication to accompany the exhibition is to be released early 2014. I haven’t seen the CCA exhibition, but its extensive use of Pierre Jeanneret archival material promises to open up new vantage points from which we can view this intriguing city.

The Archipel exhibition has been curated following a visit to Chandigarh by 130 Belgian architects who descended onto the city, and captured not only the architecture but also something of the daily life of the place. Using a series of projectors rather than still photographs, the exhibition is constantly in flux as the large images switch from historical details through to the latest buildings, housing and street scenes. Interviews and films are also broadcast and sound recordings captured in India help to transport a little bit of Chandigarh into Europe. In addition to displaying images and sounds of Chandigarh a side exhibition investigates the relationship between the urbanism of Kortrijk and Chandigarh. An extraordinary collection of material has been gathered as a result of the visit to Chandigarh and I hope it can be collated and published.

Chandigarh continues to provoke, inspire and challenge. It was refreshing not to see the original plan of the city critiqued, nor the hero worship of Le Corbusier; rather the exhibition considered how this great experiment has been adapted, modified and inhabited, and celebrates these interventions.



‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 12

Claire Louise Staunton and James Price, ‘Subverting modernism through autonomous urbanism’

The film Corrections and Omissions (2013, James Price) presents two cases of anarchic urbanism in contemporary Chandigarh. The first concerns the domestic dwellings built for low and mid-rank government employees in Sector 22, designed by Jane Drew & Maxwell Fry. Residents have defied the Chandigarh edict on a small scale by adapting the buildings to their individual and family needs; by altering the room size, use and the building shape as well as permitting “homeless” low caste families to squat on their allocated land in exchange for services such as cleaning, guarding or ironing.

Secondly, the film introduces to the viewer the off-grid village of Burail. In a struggle to keep perfect order and perfect form within the 56 sectors that make up the city, the temporary slums which appear on the fringes of the grid are systematically flattened by the state. The exceptions to this are the villages that pre-date the arrival of Le Corbusier and his team, and still exist enclosed by the masterplan. Burail lies in the centre of sector 45. Its community has persistently defied all planning regulations, is built along an irregular, diagonal axis; its thoroughfares and alleyways missing from the official city map.

The paper unpacks and allies these two examples of anarchic architecture as a subaltern creation of complex spaces, which subvert the grid, and disrupt several current narratives that de-politicise or renew colonialism. Such urbanism operates within an alternative economy outside of the dominant forces of capital and development and is an inherently political act. The paper proposes that these practices expose the contradiction between the principles of indigenous architecture (Drew 1963, Drew & Fry 1964) which insisted upon learning from the vernacular thus adapting designs for the needs and habits of future Chandigarh residents and the modernist imperative to uphold the truth of materials, which guards pure design from “from whims of individuals” (Chandigarh Edict). Furthermore, this paper suggests that the increasing heritagisation of Drew & Fry’s buildings are antithetical to their ambitions for their architecture and renders the planned districts de-politicised.


Claire Louise Staunton is the director/curator of Inheritance Projects and Flat Time House, London. Inheritance is a small group of independent curators and researchers (Laura Guy, Becky Ayre) that organises exhibitions, events, new commissions, publications and research projects. Initiated in 2007 as a vehicle to interrogate museological schemata, the narrations of history and personal and national heritage Inheritance has developed into wider territories of investigation. Inheritance works with artists, musicians and writers in collaboration with institutions to produce new knowledges and develop politically informed, critical discourses around particular topics or situations. The exchange between Inheritance curators with filmmakers, artists, writers, residents and historical artefacts offers a multiperspectival narration by a number of speakers from different places and times.

Inheritance leads a long-term investigation of the visual culture of intentionally planned urban areas (New Towns) and their migrant populations. This research project has involved a project space in Shenzhen which served to question heritage and art history in a new migrant city, an exhibition and ‘Research Lab’ unpacking the theoretical and practical applications of community at MK Gallery, Milton Keynes and more recently a performative presentation concerning the willing blindness of new developments, at Sarai, New Delhi. Other key project areas include the destabilisation of heritage through artists’ activities often redressing colonial, feminist and wider political histories in the contemporary. This has included a residency programme with the National Trust, a radio show and exhibitions in traditional museum spaces.

James Price is a documentary and experimental filmmaker who has been working with Inheritance Projects since 2010. Price’s films have been shown on the BBC, Channel 4, and More4, in art exhibitions and international film festivals. Television projects include the mini-series What is Freedom? (Channel 4, 2009) a critical investigation of liberty and freedom in USA, and A Piece of the Moon (Channel 4 / More 4, 2008) an exploration of the capitalising of outer-space and the agents who are establishing the market. The People In Order series (Channel 4, 2006) has gone on to be shown at festivals in the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Australia and the USA and was the first series of 3 Minute Wonders to be selected by Channel 4 in their annual review of work. James Price has also exhibited video installations and photography in the UK. His 2006 installation, Conversation, an exploration of human interaction and judgment, has shown in the UK, Canada, the USA, and Iran. This work is being distributed as an educational aid in the UK, Australia and North America. In 2012 he produced The Body Adorned a semi-permanent installation in the Anthropology Department at the Horniman Museum, London.

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 9

Antony Moulis, ‘Designing with landform and climate: Fry and Drew’s contribution to the Chandigarh master plan’

In the book Tropical Architecture in the Humid Zone (1956) Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew strongly criticise both ‘Garden City’ and ‘grid-iron’ layouts as ‘unrealistic’ to housing and town planning in the tropical context. Key to their own planning precepts is a practical concern for the relationship of landform and climate – the prevention of erosion, the securing of road drainage and respect for the natural contours – leading to housing layouts subtly adjusted to the prevailing conditions. For Fry and Drew such an approach emerged productively from their work begun in the British government’s West African colonies in 1944 and continued at Chandigarh, India, between 1951 and 1954. Their specific critique of both Garden City and grid-iron forms – the prevailing planning approaches in mid-20th century modernism – could be viewed as a direct legacy of their experiences in Chandigarh, where the partners found themselves working within the constraints of the city’s famous master plan, drawn by the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, which was broadly understood as a rational gridded revision of the original Garden City plan devised by the US planner Albert Mayer. Yet subtle adjustments of the city’s gridded layout to account for features of the land reveal the greater agency of Fry and Drew in the master plan’s formation and speak of their knowledge and experience of planning in the tropics already gained from their West African work up to 1950.

Based on research of the architects’ archives held by the RIBA and the V&A Museum, this paper gathers evidence of Fry and Drew’s contribution to the Chandigarh master plan, drawing upon testimony of both partners of events surrounding the master plan’s making in early 1951. By seeing Chandigarh’s overall layout in context with the architects’ own strategies for housing and town planning in the tropics published between 1947 and 1956 the paper will argue the key role of Fry and Drew in substantiating the Chandigarh master plan as more than simply an abstract conceptualisation of city form.


Antony Moulis is Associate Professor and Director of Research in the School of Architecture at the University of Queensland, Australia. His research on practices of design in mid-twentieth century modern architecture includes archival research at the Fondation Le Corbusier, the Alvar Aalto Academy, and the Canadian Architectural Archives. His architectural writing for professional and academic journals appears in ARQ, AA Files, Architectural Theory Review, Architecture Australia, Monument, Architectural Review Australia, and The Journal of Architecture. He is currently a Chief Investigator on an Australian Research Council Discovery project on eminent Australian architect John Andrews, known for his work in North America in the 1960s and ‘70s, including Gund Hall at Harvard. Moulis co-convened the 2011 Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia & New Zealand, and was awarded Best Paper at the Society’s 2010 Conference for his research of the collaborative links between Jorn Utzon and Le Corbusier.

‘Aim for the moon’

Jane Drew

In about 1991, Jane Drew lectured to students at the Hull School of Architecture and advised them to ‘aim for the moon’. Drew gave a good overview of her life and career, showing images of her work at Chandigarh, Ibadan University and in Iran. During this period she was writing her biography, although never published, and similar ideas and themes are present in the lecture here: most notably, her willingness to work hard and make mistakes, and her (perceived) luck in becoming an architect. Of being a woman architect, she said: ‘I think its a bit like making a monkey draw. If a monkey can draw it’s wonderful. If a woman can do something well it’s … I think being a woman is really a help or has been, rather than otherwise.’

A transcript of the interview has been kindly sent in by Malcolm Dickson and can be downloaded here: Drew Lecture at Hull, c1991

‘The Influence of Fry and Drew’ Conference, Abstract 1

Christina Papadimitriou, ‘Houses of Chandigarh’.

“Birth is an impingement by an environment which insists on being important… To be born or to relive birth is to experience the feeling of being in the grips of something external.” Donald Winnicott

This paper will narrate the story of the housing schemes of Chandigarh built in a period of anxiety shortly after India’s independence in 1947. Following Nihal Perera’s argument that Chandigarh is a hybrid of imaginations negotiated between multiple agencies rather than a single author’s creation, the narrative will try to give an account of the different voices expressed and the different visions of modernity moving between individuals – as diverse as Otto Koenigsberger, Albert Mayer, Matthew Nowicki, Maxwell Fry, Jane Drew, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret – and national and institutional platforms.

The main argument will be made in terms of international relationships, with major and minor players, as they manifest themselves in the building of the houses of Chandigarh and not in post-colonial terms since the latter frame of thought has the tendency to reduce the ex-colony to the role of a post-colony. Thus, by focusing on Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, this paper will compare their housing projects in Chandigarh not only to their work in West Africa or in the Middle East, as is usually the case, but also with their projects in Britain such as the two schemes designed for Harlow, the Tany’s Dell and Chantry housing groups. Since Fry and Drew were also responsible for the bye-laws provisioned for Chandigarh, similarities and differences between them and those of the London County Council will also be drawn. The paper’s aim is to demonstrate a process of modernization that affects everyone but where “effects” on a specific subject depend on the latter’s position in the instance of modernization.


Christina Papadimitriou is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University where she received her M.A. in 2011. She also holds an M.A. (Dist.) in Histories and Theories from the Architectural Association in London, a Diploma (Dist.) in Architecture from the University of Patras and a Diploma in Art and Archaeology (Dist.) from the University of Athens. Her dissertation studies the MARS Group in Britain from 1933 until 1957. Starting as a marginal architectural group, MARS acquired a preeminent position both in England and abroad after the Second World War and played an important role in the way the modern movement was perceived and disseminated globally. The dissertation takes on specific themes of shared interest as indicated by the group’s organized committees and narrates the MARS story through exemplary but formally diverse solutions to the obstacles the group had identified in Britain’s way to modernism.


PhD Studentship ‘Envisioning the Indian City’ (ETIC)

If you would like to pursue a PhD  at Liverpool University that relates to our understanding of the Indian City, then please consider applying for this studentship (fees only).

Further details about the application process can be found at:

The main objectives of ETIC are to examine the following broad areas of inquiry:

(1) how and why the city has functioned as the focus of cross-cultural exchanges in both colonial and post-colonial India;

(2) the nature of the marks that such exchanges have left on the socio-cultural and imaginative identities of the cities in question;

(3) the ways in which they have shaped, and been shaped by, the urban space and the physical fabric of the city in each case; and

(4) the ways in which the nature of such exchanges vary both synchronically, across geographical regions in the same period, and diachronically, across historical periods (sixteenth century till the present).

ETIC involves scholars from English literature, History, Architecture and Modern Languages, with specialisms covering the sixteenth century till the present. The exact PhD topic is open to discussion with potential applicants, but must be related to furthering our understanding of the Indian city. Projects that work across disciplinary boundaries (such as attending to both cultural and spatial/architectural traces of encounter in sixteenth century Goa or twentieth century Pondicherry or Chandigarh, for instance), or those that work across one or more of the selected cities, are especially welcome. Responsibilities will also involve providing some support to the ETIC project, such as helping with meetings, organising reading lists, helping to organise small symposia and gathering source material, uploading data to blog/website.

Applications are invited from students with a good first degree (First, 2:1 or equivalent) or a post-graduate degree in a relevant discipline.

The Doctoral scholarship is available for up to three years full-time study starting on or before September 2013 which will cover the cost of University tuition fees at UK/EU rates, as well as providing tailored early career development training within a thriving intellectual and social community of over 800 researchers and 300 postgraduate researchers.

For more information or to discuss possible research projects further, please contact