Pierre Jeanneret (1896- 1967): To the man who gave Chandigarh light, air and verdure
The genius of Jeanneret’s ouvre can be gauged from his buildings, which range from 13,000 government houses to the exotic Gandhi Bhavan and Panjab University.punjab Updated: Dec 03, 2017 23:29 IST
Jeet Malhotra was just out of college when he began working with Pierre Jeanneret in May 1951. It was an association that continued till Jeanneret breathed his last in 1967, a year after leaving Chandigarh. Fifty years on, Malhotra, who went on to become the chief architect of Punjab, still speaks with reverence about his guru.
It’s a sentiment he shares with SD Sharma, another young architect who was among the team of youngsters who assisted Jeanneret. While Le Corbusier didn’t want “children” in his team, his cousin, the quiet, bespectacled Jeanneret was happy to have them.
Sharma, who began to assist Jeanneret in 1963, says he learnt modernism from the first chief architect of the city. “It was a divine experience. He believed in the elements of purity, simplicity, and order. He believed only a good human being could create a good building.”
EMPATHY FOR POOR
Jeanneret’s architecture was spiritual as he felt every building should be able to nurture a human with its interplay of space, light and air. “Besides being a great architect, he was also a warm human being who had empathy for the poor and middle class,” says Malhotra.
The genius of Jeanneret’s ouvre can be gauged from his buildings, which range from 13,000 government houses to the exotic Gandhi Bhavan and Panjab University.
Kapil Sethia, chief architect of the city, says Chandigarh owes its being to Jeanneret. “Le Corbusier only visited the city once or twice a year, Jeanneret was the foot architect who built the city on the values of sun, space and verdure.”
Rajnish Wattas, former principal of the Chandigarh College of Architecture, says Jeanneret’s biggest challenge was to construct an aesthetically pleasing, modern, and functional city on a shoestring budget. “India was a poor country at that time. Jeanneret worked with local masons to create poetry out of local material. Corbusier built the Capitol Complex but Jeanneret gave the city its flesh and bones.”
The city owes its understated beauty to Jeanneret, who was meditative, not flamboyant. “It’s thanks to him that every section of the population here enjoys good quality of life,” says Sethia.
For Jeanneret, who never married, Chandigarh was family. He lived in a house in Sector 5 with Bansi, his cook and confidant, using his cycle to map the city. In 1965, he was forced by ill-health to move back to Paris. He died in 1967.
His ashes were scattered in Sukhna Lake as per his last wishes.