Le Corbusier

The Maestro of Architecture

Renowned as an architectural acrobat, Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, widely known as Le Corbusier, left an indelible mark in the world of art and architecture. A Swiss-French architect, furniture designer, urbanist, writer, theoretician, sculptor, and painter, he was a pioneer in the development of Modern architecture. Over the span of his illustrious five-decade career, Le Corbusier erected structures across Central Europe, India, Russia, and North and South America.

During his formative years, he embarked on extensive travels throughout Europe, diligently studying architecture and meticulously documenting his observations in countless sketchbooks. Le Corbusier’s restless wanderings fostered a rich understanding of diverse architectural styles and influences. Notably, he devised a measuring system known as the “Modulor”, which he employed to place humanity at the heart of architectural and design endeavours. Rooted in the principles of the golden ratio and human proportions, this distinctive silhouette found expression not only in his architectural creations but also in his paintings.

Throughout his architectural oeuvre, Le Corbusier developed a cohesive set of design principles that encompassed pilotis (supporting pillars), roof gardens, open floor plans, expansive divs, and detached facades. He consistently emphasized the paramount importance of considering people as a collective entity, and his visionary urbanist perspective has since become a guiding principle in modern urban planning.

Le Corbusier in Ahmedabad

“Urbanism is the activity of society. Capital is the spirit of a nation.”

In 1951, Le Corbusier received the prestigious commission to develop a plan for Chandigarh, a defining moment for India as it emerged from a hard-fought struggle for independence and sought to establish its identity and place among the ranks of developed nations. Who better to design a Modern capital than the most famous Modernist Architect in the world?

It was during this transformative period that Le Corbusier was invited to Ahmedabad by Surottam Hutheesingh, the president of the Millowner’s Association, and Chinubhai Chimanbhai. Their collaboration resulted in the construction of the association’s headquarters, three millowners’ residences (only two of them built), and a city museum. Despite being constructed within the same timeframe, these structures display a remarkable diversity and contrast in terms of form and materials employed. Corbusier has designed 4 buildings in Ahmedabad.

During his initial visit to Ahmedabad, Chinubhai Chimanbhai entrusted Le Corbusier with two projects: a city museum and a personal residence. While the villa for Chinubhai Chimanbhai remained unbuilt, Le Corbusier was granted the opportunity to construct the museum, drawing upon concepts he had been exploring since 1929. In the spring of 1951, Surottam Hutheesingh commissioned Le Corbusier to design a house that would reflect the lifestyle of an affluent bachelor ready to enter into marriage, necessitating a variety of spaces and an impressive entrance. Subsequently, Surottam Hutheesingh sold the design to fellow millowner Shyamubhai Shodhan.

Le Corbusier astutely considered Ahmedabad’s climate, culture, and the inherent contradictions of a population with a modern outlook yet deeply rooted in tradition. One distinct feature of Corbusier’s architectural philosophy, evident across his projects in Ahmedabad, is his emphasis on rooftops as valuable spaces rather than mere wastelands. Examples include vegetable farming in Villa Sarabhai, hydroponic cultivation planned for the Sankar Kendra roof, and the utilization of terraces as outdoor spaces in the MillOwner’s Building.