Submitted By ahmedelhaddad93
No discussion of the life and work of Oscar Niemeyer is complete without Brasília, the dazzling capital that sprung up in the Brazilian savanna in 1961. The Brazilian starchitect who passed away on Wednesday, was responsible for the project’s crowning achievement: the monumental government buildings that stood proudly as emblems of the power of Modernist architecture’s promise--and, later, unfortunate failure--to shape a utopian society.
What gets less attention is that, a decade earlier, another urban vision was taking form more than 8,000 miles away, in India, under the supervision of Le Corbusier. Chandigarh, like Brasília, was intended to be a sparkling new city, created from scratch as a way of shaking off the albatross of colonialism and instating a native, democratic government. And modern notions of urban planning and architecture were central to both new capitals, as the premier architectural photographer Iwan Baan documents in a recent book from Lars Muller Publishers, Brasília-Chandigarh. Fifty years into existence, the two cities have evolved into examples of how grand utopian projects can both inspire and disappoint.
India became independent in 1947 and quickly entered a civil war, resulting in two separate states: Hindu-dominated India and what became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The border that bisected the two entities ran straight through the former province of Punjab and left India without its historical capital, Lahore. That hole inspired Indian leaders to commission an altogether new political center--one infused with the progressive ideals of Modernism. In addition to the architect couple Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry, Le Corbusier was brought on to execute the plan, which included a gridiron scheme that reflected Corbu’s obsession with the car--one of the scheme’s ultimate failings, as the residents to this day mainly use bikes and…...