Chandigarh College of Architecture on Monday celebrated the 125th birth anniversary of Architect Pierre Jeanneret who was the first Chief Architect of Chandigarh and one of the three architects who worked on the Chandigarh Project along with Le Corbusier.
The chief guest for the event was SS Gill, Secretary Technical Education, Chandigarh Administration. Others attended the programme were Jagjit Singh, Additional Secretary Technical Education, Chandigarh Administration, Kapil Setia, Chief Architect, Department of Urban Planning, Chandigarh Administration and Dr Sandeep Goel, Founder Patron Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret forum, faculty members and College students.
On the occasion, speakers spoke about Jeanneret’s contribution to the construction of the new capital of the State of Punjab in India, to be later named Chandigarh. The city, marked by its modern buildings and neighborhoods, its housing and leisure parks, its infrastructure and landscapes, has been fully associated with the legendary Le Corbusier.
Kapil Setia, Chief Architect, spoke on the works of Pierre Jeanneret. He mentioned how simple building materials and design were used by Pierre to create various buildings in Chandigarh including those in the Panjab University, Lake Club, government and private houses as well as schools and hostels.
He also used local materials and techniques to design furniture. Dr Sandeep Goel introduced his new venture related to the works of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. Le Corbusier had praised his cousin Pierre Jeanneret in glowing terms
Dr Sangeeta Bagga Mehta, Principal, Chandigarh College of Architecture, delivered a presentation titled – Life of the Craftsmen. She spoke about the humble and down to earth nature of Pierre and how he was a man of detailing. He spent 15 years in Chandigarh during which he oversaw the development and construction of various buildings in Chandigarh. He was liked and admired by his staff in the Chief Architects Office. Bagga said, “The development of Chandigarh marked the birth of modern architecture in India. Jeanneret would make use of indigenous materials and non-mechanised methods, and imbued his style of architecture with the western ethos.
The differentiation of urban functions has been adopted from the west. In Chandigarh, we have well-differentiated commercial and residential areas. Jeanneret was ahead of the times as he developed the Capitol Complex for work, the City Centre for recreation and the Leisure Valley for the care of the body and the spirit. Jeanneret’s legacy lives on in every inch and pebble of this city.”
Jeanneret oversaw the construction of government housing, varsities, schools, Capitol Complex, City Centre and Town Hall, among other buildings.
He would often pedal on his bicycle to Panjab University from the Old Architects office in Sector 19 to oversee his favourite projects- Gandhi Bhawan and Fine Arts Museum. Over the weekends he travelled into the hinterland of Punjab, to observe the countryside and understand the culture better. He had a knack for designing window latches, and numerous sets of furniture for government offices and public places like libraries, schools and hospitals.
Over the years, several heritage items designed by Jeanneret, like office armchairs and easy chairs in teak and wicker, have been auctioned abroad, fetching amounts to the tune of lakhs.
A set of wooden furniture items designed by Jeanneret and Corbusier, which has a reserve price of a whopping Rs 17.28 lakh, is set to go under the hammer in Milan this month. Jeanneret was known to make frugal choices, and use of relatively less time-consuming methods. His practice of ‘less is more’ brought into his architecture more functionality while retaining beauty.
His dexterity in design and his distinctive works have earned him plaudits from across the world.
“As a designer, he was always mindful of the vagaries of nature and the orientation of the buildings. He would prefer to use sun-breakers in buildings over dead walls, which facilitate cross-ventilation,” Dr Bagga added.
Jeanneret, who was enamoured of the City Beautiful, had to return to Geneva due to his declining health. He breathed his last in December 1967. Following his demise, his ashes were brought back to India, and immersed in the Sukhna Lake; as it was said to be his dying wish – to be one with the soil of the UT.