Is Chandigarh a future ready city ?
Opinion Why smart city is merely a buzzword and has outlived its real intent
In the 50s and 60s, a city with big highways and high rise buildings was considered an ideal ‘utopian’ model. In the 21st century, the utopian vision for future cities has moved to a ‘smart cities’ rhetoric. The key difference lies in the fact that the grand vision is centered on urban design ideas and today, these are being led by big corporate groups. The economic and cultural changes of the century are transforming our cities and the practice of architecture dramatically.
The buzzword ‘smart’ added to the idea of future cities has been applied to the Indian context with the Modi government backing the initiative with no less than 100 smart cities in the next five years. Almost half of the world’s population currently lives in urban cities and by 2050, this statistic is projected at 75 per cent.
Chandigarh was conceived in 1951 as Corbusier’s very own utopia—a new capital of the state of Punjab as a replacement of Lahore, post the bloody aftermath of the 1947 partition. Jawaharlal Nehru, while setting out the vision stated “Chandigarh should be a new town, symbolic of freedom of India, unfretted by the traditions of the past”. The vision was obviously grand which was to be translated to ground with modernist theories of Charles-Édouard JeanneretGris known by the pseudonym Le Corbusier. American and Polish architect, planners Albert Meyer and Mathew Nowicki also contributed to the masterplan of this grand Indian city, together with a battery of Indian professionals. Originally built for a population of half a million people, Chandigarh’s population now stands at over 1 million. The tri-city, as it’s called, which comprises