Sixty years on, Werner Feiersinger’s CHANDIGARH REDUX constitutes a new chapter in the narrative. This collection of his photographs – in which he looks at the city’s architecture with the keen eye of a sculptor – casts the work of Le Corbusier, Pierre Jeanneret, Jane B. Drew, and E. Maxwell Fry in a new light. Werner Feiersinger captures the architecture’s solid, sculptural qualities, as well as Chandigarh’s vivid atmosphere and virtuosity.
By Andreas Vass
Chandigarh was the invention of a small group of technicians and administrative officers in Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s inner circle in the administration oft he East Punjab. The hesitant skeptical, factious, notoriously penniless and oft-changing leadership oft he new Indian state, which emerged from the partition immediately following the liberation of India in 1947, had come to this decision entirely on its own.
Nehru and the planning staff headed by P.N. Thapar und P.L. Varma selected a handful of American and European architects and urban planners to design the city. The implementation and development of Chandigarh has been the achievement of Indian engineers, civil servants, day laborers, construction
workers, merchants and residents, the latter most spurred either by conviction or necessity.
Chandigarh is the founding of a state of emergency; is signature, like an after image is inscribed in its road network, is statistical order, is matrix of State welfare and private commercial interest of rational planning and is currently effective usage. (…)
When the emissaries first visited Le Corbusier’s Paris Studio, instead of taking on the project, Le Corbusier handed them tickets to Marseille, where his Unité d’Habitation was under construction. What they saw there shocked them: a multi-story apartment house seemed incompatible with „Indian forms of living“. Their concern whether this was the right man for the job, combined with his proclaimed reluctance to leave his Paris studio in Rue de Sèvres for the uncertain implementation of the garden city scheme of an American city planner, brought them to London, to Le Corbusier’s young CIAM colleagues Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew, who then accompanied them to the second, successful visit tot he master’s studio in December 1950. The fact that Le Corbusier was now willing to work with low-slung building massing probably had to do with having found a way to radically reinterpret the existing plan, which had already been ratified in Delhi.
The Chandigarh Master Plan 2031 – which has been under discussion for several years – again brings up the matter of the Post and Telegraph Office,but what would Le Corbusier think oft he abandoned cinemas and theater Complexes in Sector 17? Among them is an erratic block, soaring like a stranded tanker out of the northwestern park areas: the Anand Cinema with its fully closed north side, which had attracted our attention as we arrived in the pouring rain, a reminder of a conclusively planned but never implemented duplication. Not far from it, a further similar complex, the Jagat Cinema, was replaced years ago by a never-opened shopping mall; it’s demonstrative white has already begun to take on the tone of the reddish sand whirled up from the surrounding wasteland. A third movie complex in the north of the sector seems to be on the brink of bankruptcy. (…)
WERNER FEIERSINGER, born 1966, is an Austrian sculptor and photographer living and working in Vienna. He did his artistic education at University of Applied Arts in Vienna. He has lectured at Ecole national supérieure des beaux-arts de Lyon in 1999 and, as a visiting professor, at University of Applied Arts in Vienna 2006–08.
ANDREAS VASS, born 1961, graduated in architecture from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna in 1988. He is a founding partner of Hubmann Vass Architects in Vienna and has been teaching as a visiting professor at various universities in Austria, Chile, Italy, and Switzerland.
Photographs by Werner Feiersinger.
Essay by Andreas Vass.
Edited by Martin and Werner Feiersinger
Scheidegger & Spiess Zürich, 2015
Text in English,
16 x 24 cm. CHF 49.