MODERNIST DILEMMAS— Chandigarh and Brasilia at 50

Modernist Dilemmas—
Chandigarh and Brasilia at 50

Proseminar Spring 2010–ongoing

Professors Beatriz Colomina and Esther da Costa Meyer with Vikram Prakash, Professor at the University of Washington, and students: Marc Britz, Matthew Clarke, Vanessa Grossman, Kevin Hayes, Tamicka Marcy, Christina Papadimitriou, Phoebe Springstubb, Sam Stewart-Halevy, Osnat Tadmor, and Federica Vannucchi

During the twentieth century, several new capitals were built from scratch, for economic and political reasons. Two of these—Brasília and Chandigarh—share several traits, partly due to the impact of Le Corbusier. In these new cities, the full force of modern architecture was put to the test. This spring the MM500 seminar taught by Professors Beatriz Colomina (School of Architecture) and Esther da Costa Meyer (Art and Archeology) was dedicated to reassessing these two capitals which are both turning 50 this year. In the seminar, the original projects have been examined from different and often conflicting perspectives, with particular attention paid to the role of popular and professional media in the global promotion and circulation of the new cities. The seminar explored the transformations that have taken place during the last half century, including the dramatic change from a nationalistic to a transnational globalized perspective, and from a city built after the end of colonization to a city flourishing in our current age of postcolonial critique. The highlight of the seminar was travelling to Chandigarh to see the works in person, interview some of the living protagonists and to gather archival material on site. With Vikram Prakash, Professor at the University of Washington, a native of Chandigarh, and son of one of Le Corbusier’s project managers, the class was able to not only study the Capital Complex designed by Le Corbusier, but also the progressive housing projects of Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry, the public infrastructure of Pierre Jeanneret, and the urban plan developed by Corb and Albert Mayer. Professors da Costa Meyer and Colomina and some of the students will continue to collaborate on an ongoing discussion about Chandigarh’s urban and architectural legacy as part of a Media and Modernity project.