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College students in Chandigarh work to bring city’s first chief architect Pierre Jeanneret back to life

Chandigarh College of Architecture is holding activities from December 3-20 to acquaint citizens with the man who built City Beautiful.

punjab Updated: Dec 02, 2017 11:44 IST
Manraj Grewal Sharma
Manraj Grewal Sharma
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Jeanneret,Pierre Jeanneret,Sangeeta Bagga
Students have arranged rare images on loan for the exhibition from architectural historian Maritella Casciato, who has curated Pierre Jeanneret’s archives in Montreal, Canada.(Sikander Singh/HT)

“It’s homage to a teacher, a mentor, to someone who believed in teaching by practising.” That is how Sangeeta Bagga, the principal of Chandigarh College of Architecture, describes their two-day commemoration of the legacy of Pierre Jeanneret, the first chief architect of the city who built it from the brick, on his 50th death anniversary.

Step into the college, and you will see the self-effacing architect everywhere. He’s there on the brochures, the invites, the tall panels, and even in the courtyard, where a dozen students are sitting on the grass in fading light, working assiduously to recreate his living room. The bushy-haired Kanav Kaushal, a final-year student with the luxury of a chair, says, “The stage will have the facade of Jeanneret’s house, complete with a fish-eye window, a big conical window, brick jaali…We are also making a replica of his iconic kangaroo chair.”

Both teachers and students of the college are unanimous that Jeanneret has been in the shadows of Le Corbusier for far too long, it’s time he comes into his own.

As Kanav puts it, “He is the forgotten architect of the city even though he was on the ground when it was being built. He deserves an ode.”

Pierre Jeanneret (Wikicommons)

LIVING ARCHIVES

They are scripting it in the principal’s office with its lemon yellow chairs and the high ceiling, working past midnight to coordinate with Montreal in Canada, from where they are getting images, which are on loan for the exhibition, An Architectural Odyssey, from December 3 to 20, and will be destroyed thereafter. “The final year students have made 14 panels curating his work. We are getting many images from architectural historian Maritella Casciato, who has curated Jeanneret’s archives in Montreal,” explains Bagga.

The 14 eye-catching panels sum up Jeanneret and his works, beginning with an introduction to the man, the timeline of his architectural journey, and works, titled ‘Centres of Learning’. “These are a testimony to wonders of collaboration among three teachers and 14 students,” says Bagga.

The students are also conducting walking tours of the Capitol Complex, Old Architects’ Office in Sector 19, Pierre Jeanneret museum and Panjab University campus. “You can see Jeanneret’s imprint all over the city, be it the modest government houses, Panjab University or the assembly,” says Bagga.

ON CHAIRS AND TABLES

Third-year students are paying homage to Jeanneret’s furniture. “It was a modern, no-frills furniture, which is remarkable for its simplicity and comfortable design. He was good at improvising and made use of locally available material such as timber, cane and jute,” says Amrit Panwar, a lecturer.

Showing you a Lilliputian bed, Millind, a third-year student, says he is fascinated by Jeanneret’s fuss-free, classic furniture. But making the replicas takes time. Tamanna Sethi, a third-year student, says it takes about an hour and half to draft, cut, and glue a piece of furniture. “We make nine pieces in a day,” says Millind.

Students also designed the brochure, says Priya Gupta, a lecturer. It’s inspired by the geometrical shapes employed by Jeanneret. Gupta, who is coordinating the tours, says it’s a great way to connect with the first foot architect of the city. “The beauty of his work is that it has endured so long and is as contemporary now as it was then.”

Bagga says Jeanneret’s work is so ubiquitous that it’s easy to miss it. “Like the man himself, his work is not overpowering. There are simple elements such as sun-breakers, cross ventilators… when I look at a building, I can see Jeanneret’s watermark on it.”

Bagga hopes the college will help locals see it too.

First Published: Dec 02, 2017 11:38 IST