Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Secret City

In 1958 a government official employed by the Public Works Department as a roads inspector, began construction on what is now known as the Rock Garden of Chandigarh. Over the course of fourteen years Nek Chand Saini (b. 1924) gathered stones, scrap metal, bicycle parts, tires, tissue, glass, ceramic and wire, to realise a small kingdom populated by pottery elephants, horses, monkeys, gods, goddesses and thousands of human figures. Located in a publically owned forest reserve and structured around a series of bridges, gorges, passageways, courtyards, streams and waterfalls, the vast garden remained undiscovered until 1972. 
 Figures in Nek Chand's Rock Garden. Image: Carol Mitchell
The Rock Garden was constructed in the shadow of and in tandem with Le Corbusier’s modernist new town: Chand collected recyclables and discarded material from villages demolished to make way for the city, he chose a site designated a land conservatory for the new capital and even convinced government employed workers to labour on his parallel building site. Designated a ‘garden’, it is arguably also a differently imagined city. Constructed from the detritus of former habitations, labyrinthine in form and crammed with brightly coloured constructions, Chand’s hidden world exists in stark and seemingly diametric opposition to the aesthetic ideals explicit in the architecture of Chandigarh.
More illuminating perhaps is to consider the possible contact points between these two architectural projects: one carried out the public eye and marking an attempt to realise a particular vision of India’s future, the other undertaken in secret but similarly guided by a desire to in some way reflect the identity of a newly-partitioned nation. 
Elsa Richardson
Further reading: 

No comments:

Post a Comment