The Treasures of Chandigarh

Meet my new chair.  Lucky me!  It is by Pierre Jeanneret, and it was made in 1955.  Why it was made is the interesting story, though …

The man in the fancy chair that looks a lot like mine is Le Corbusier, and the other one standing is his cousin, Pierre Jeanneret.  They are standing in front of a map of Chandigarh, the city that they planned, designed, and constructed in India (after the city’s originally commissioned architect, Matthew Nowicki, died in a plane crash).  You see, after the partition of British India into India and Pakistan in 1947, the former British province of Punjab was also split between India and Pakistan. The Indian state of Punjab required a new capital city to replace Lahore, which became part of Pakistan during the partition, and so Chandigarh, the first planned city in India, was created.

The result was a Corbu-style city, structured according to an overwhelmingly thoughtful strategy – the northern part of the city, with its executive and legislative buildings, functions as the ‘head’, the ‘heart’ operates as Chandigarh’s commercial centre, while academic and leisure facilities are located in the city’s ‘arms’.

So, yeah, architecturally the city is pretty breathtaking, but it doesn’t stop there.  We now return back to the Jeanerret chairs … everything in Chandigarh was fashioned by the dynamic design duo – from the buildings down to the mancovers – which translates to an unimaginable quantity of design treasures.  To the residents of the city they were simply chairs, desks, or lamps, but to collectors around the world these objects are unique examples of some of Corbusier and Jeanerret’s most incredible creations.  Thus, they were sold for rupees in India (if they weren’t chopped up for teak or left to rot after they broke), and they have been auctioned for small fortunes ever since.

Judge’s Chair, 1960

Standard Lamp, 1955

Pedal Boat, 1950

Fireside Chair, 1960

Ministers Table/Desk, 1958/9

Manhole Cover, 1951/4

And the list goes on and on and on and on, as has this post!  I am just amazed by this one. If you are as interested as I am in this story, check out this great article in the NYT, or this one at Mid-Centuria.


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