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December 20, 2006

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Interesting. I have heard much about Chandigarh, but I haven't been there. I also had no idea of the Harappan finds.

I have to object to one thing though. Your phrase "a colossal failure of the Indian imagination" is just a cliched journalistic trope. I first came across this criticism in Naipaul's writing, where he faults Indian cities for deadeningly dull architecture lacking imagination. While the criticism is spot on, blaming the Indian imagination is a sign of thoughtlessness at best.

I believe that the state of Indian cities today has a very strong economic explanation, though that is not the complete story, with official apathy contributing a big part. Most municipal authorities are either powerless or apathetic. Officials who do have decision-making power are too corrupt to make any sensible decisions. On the other hand, most people who build houses barely have enough money to complete construction, leave alone thinking about urban planning, elegance or beauty.

Having been through a family experience of home construction in Hyderabad during my childhood, I have a fairly good idea of how hard it was to scrape together enough money to build a decent house. Even the cost of sewer lines in the street had to be shared by the residents. Given the tough monetary constraints, the prime concern was to build a solid house (good foundation, thick walls, a roof that wouldn't come crashing down) rather than elegance or beauty.

To put it briefly, the precious few with imagination lack money and authority and those with money and authority lack imagination. That this leads to a culture of haphazard building and uninspiring towns and cities is no surprise.

A clarification: The failure of the imagination I allude to is of the Indian political establishment, not of ordinary folks scraping a house together with their life savings.

An urban experience like Chandigarh doesn't happen via disjointed individual efforts. It requires vision and planning from above. Chandigarh's success, and the experience gained in building a modern city from scratch, became a cul-de-sac. It appears that no major politician or party was willing to champion more planned cities. Knowledge and experience had been acquired; it just had to be implemented in more places.

The Indian political establishment had the will and the foresight to invest in a space program, but not in urban planning. With a lot more money at its disposal now, it still doesn't get it, encouraging waiting-to-happen disasters like Gurgaon (which, despite its many beautiful individual houses, is a dismal urban milieu). Apathy and corruption are explanations for why imagination fails, not honorable excuses.

[NB: I've added "Indian political establishment" in the first para to improve clarity.]

Para entender en esencia el concepto de Chandigarh es necesario conocer la mentalidad y el espíritu de su autor, Le Corbusier, cuyo talento como arquitecto, urbanista, artista, esritor y teorico, esta reconocido por todo el mundo, cuya grandeza, sin embargo, no reside sólo en estas manifestaciones, sino principalmente en su perfección interior que obtuvo por su descubrimiento de la Belleza del Universo y por su gran deseo y entusiasmo de vivir y formar parte integrante y activa a través de su trabajo, en éste, que le aseguro su éxito y que sus innovaciones fueran acertadas en todos los campos de sus actividades.
Con esta mentalidad , Le Corbusier ha logrado dar dos hogares a cada persona de la ciudad; uno su casa para su vida íntima y familiar, y el otro la misma ciudad que, con sus plazas, paseos, calles comerciales, terrazas y parques, invita a la gente a quedarse alli y vivir su vida social, con lo que logro satisface sus necesidades espirituales.

No se quien a modificado el texto de mi comentario; Esto es asi: Para entender en esencia el concepto de Chandigarh es necesario conocer la mentalidad y el espíritu de su Autor, Le Corbusier, cuyo talento como arquitecto, urbanista, artista, escritor, teorista, esta reconocido por todo el mundo, cuya grandeza sin embargo, no reside sólo en estas manifestaciones, sino principalmente en su perfección interior que obtuvo por su descubrimiento de la belleza del Universo y por su gran deseo y entusiasmo de vivir y formar parte integrante y activa a través de su trabajo, en éste, que le aseguro su exito, y que su innovaciones fueran acertadas en todos los campos de sus actividades.
Gracias a este perfecto estado de su ser. en urbanismo y para los asentamientos humanos, tambien nos ha dejado la solución ideal.Chandigarh su proyecto de la capital de Punjab para medio million de habitantres, refleja los principios de la Carta de Atenas.
Con esta sistema, Le Corbusier ha logrado dar dos hogares a cada individio de la ciudad; uno su casa para su vida intima y familiar, y el otro la misma ciudad que con sus plazas, paseos, calles comercialees, terrazas y parques invita a la gente a gedarse allí y vivir su vida social, con lo que satisface sus necesidades espirituales.

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