Monday, November 26, 2012

The Chandigarh Connection

So what does Swiss money and India have in common? And no, I am not referring to secret Swiss bank accounts and scandals………………

Chandigarh! The back of the Swiss 10 franc note (in use since 1997) carries a schematic representation of Chandigarh’s city center .  Unless you look at it knowing what it is, it’s not easy to link the geometric rectangles, half rectangles and I shapes that one sees to anything but a random computer generated pattern………..but once you know, it falls into place. Much more easily recognizable, is what’s on the other side of the 10 franc note, the image of Le Corbusier. 

A picture who anyone who went to school in India, knows as a familiar figure in text books as the man who designed India’s  ‘first and only planned city’. I always thought he was French and he was by citizenship but he was born here in Switzerland and the Swiss do like to claim him as their own. 

He was born in the little town of La Chaux-de-Fonds (Ok, ok, the Swiss call this less than 40,000 people place a large city) in the Jura mountains near Neuchatel and a hop and a skip from the French border. 
La Chaux-de-Fonds
When we went there last year to see the watch museum for which it is better known, it did not seem different from other towns in the region (except that all the trees in the city are trimmed so that their tops are exactly at 1000m above sea level) but coincidentally, this town has the honour of being the only planned city in Switzerland and is itself built in a chessboard like grid pattern. Maybe some of what became Chandigarh drew inspiration from his childhood town.

For those living in the area or planning  to be, Chaux-de Fonds is celebrating Corbusier’s 125th birth anniversary this year and there are numerous exhibitions, walking tours, book launches and events running till January 2013 and one of his earliest works the Villa Turque  will be open to visitors . Ironically, while his birth town celebrates, newspapers in India have recently been carrying stories of how the house in which Le Corbusier lived for 17 years in Chandigarh is itself in a state of ruin and many of Chandigarh’s buildings are facing a similar fate, neglect and worse still theft. Equally ironically, while Chaux-de-Fonds is a UNESCO World Heritage site, Chandigarh is still to attain that status.

I confess, though always wanting to and despite all the years living in India, I have never managed to go to Chandigarh but at least now I can say I have made the pilgrimage to honor a man whom I have admired since class 6.


  1. interesting facts about how two very disparate countries get linked in time - apart from the Swiss (banks) connection.

  2. Chandigarh Schools

    intresting facts , nice information available

  3. It is delightful to discover surprises with Bela.May not be possible to visit his Swiss birthplace but to try to visit his creation.

  4. Fascinating. I've always wondered what that was on the back of the 10 chf note.

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  6. Lovely post Bela!
    Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, better known as Le Corbusier was indeed born and raised in Switzerland although he spent most of his time in Paris were he began a period of collaboration with many "avant garde" artists.
    La Villa Turque in La Chaux-de-Fonds was his first commission as a young & promising architect. He built only few buildings in Switzerland but if you are willing to visit his creations without having to travel to Pendjab, you can visit his "petite maison" built in 1923 for his parents in Corseaux, or the "Immeubel Clarté" located in Rive that has recently been finely renovated.
    Just ran into your blog accidentaly. Great job, keep on going!

    1. Wow. Thanks for this additional information. I shall certainly look for his building in Rive ........didn't know there was a sample of his work so close by.

      Glad you found the blog and do keep reading.

  7. Really awesome, Always has a dream that one day will come when i will be there
    Learn French in chandigarh


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