July 2017

City Beautiful and Its Sobriquet

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Born out of the pangs of country’s partition, need for a capital city Chandigarh was acutely felt after unified Punjab’s capital, Lahore, went to Pakistan. Country’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru envisioned a new capital city for Punjab in India that would represent the very spirit of independence that the country had attained, writes Priya Yadav of Elets News Network (ENN).

It was meant to be a city that was a joy to live in- an example of urban planning and architecture. World renowned Le Corbusier, a French Swiss architect of international repute, understood the passion behind these sentiments and created a city that is now considered the most futuristic city of all times the world over.

“Though largely thought to be original creation of Le Corbusier, the city’s first planning was done by Albert Mayer, an American architect.”

“Let this be a new town, symbolic of freedom of India, unfettered by the traditions of the past.. an expression of nation’s faith in the future,” said Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, country’s first Prime Minister.

Though largely thought to be original creation of Le Corbusier, the city’s first planning was done by Albert Mayer, an American architect.

American firm, M/s Mayer, Whittlessay and Glass was commissioned in 1950 to prepare the master plan for the new city. Mayer advocated the concept of City Beautiful, an architecture concept that was popular in America during 1890s and 1900. He is believed to have said, “We want to create a beautiful city”. The phrase was used as a logo in official publications and has now become the city’s sobriquet.

The City Beautiful movement in America, which inspired the city’s creator, was a reform philosophy of North American architecture and urban planning which intended to introduce beautification and monumental grandeur in cities. It was felt that such beautification could promote a harmonious social order that would increase the quality of life. Its reflection is easy to trace in the city with the unique architecture of its landmark buildings like the Capitol Complex, the Assembly Hall, Gandhi Bhawan in Panjab University and others.

“Chandigarh is very proud of its architectural legacy and massive efforts are being made to conserve and preserve its heritage buildings,”says Anurag Aggarwal, Home Secretary, Chandigarh Administration.

Sixty five years after it was envisioned and came into existence, Chandigarh, has earned the sobriquet richly. And it is not just for its architectural grandeur. It is a city that is bestowed with healthy ‘lungs’. A vast, impressive green belt threads its way through the city, end to end. This is a network of sprawling gardens and parks that are thickly wooded and beautifully maintained. Manicured hedges, trimmed grass, flower beds blooming with seasonal flowers, these parks are tourist attractions in themselves.

Chandigarh is perhaps the only city that celebrates flowers. Come December, when the city turns into a feast for eyes with chrysanthemums in full bloom, the Terraced Garden hosts the annual Chrysanthemum Show. Organised by Chandigarh Municipal Corporation, the flower festival sees a footfall of staggering 1.5 lakh visitors over a period of three days.

The horticulture wing of the civic body, that organizes the show, nurtures over 12000 pots of several varieties of Chrysanthemum and arrange these in alluring designs in the garden for benefit of visitors. A competition held invites private entries from institutions, colleges, schools, residences and awards are cherished by the recipients as most prestigious.

“We are working on a horticulture policy that will streamline the maintenance and development of parks in the city. These are extremely popular among city residents and lot of effort is being poured into developing these to gain international recognition,” says B Purushartha, the Municipal Commissioner.

City residents are equally possessive about the city’s parks and gardens and join hands with the civic authorities for their upkeep. The flower beds are always full of blooming flowers and perhaps it is one of the few cities where none from public plucks them. “ Residents contribute equally in maintaining the parks and green spaces and are very proud of these. The citizen engagement in upkeep of neighbourhood parks is amazing,”says Asha Jaswal, the city’s Mayor.

It is not just the Chrysanthemum show that is gaining international recognition. The Rose Festival, held every FeburaryMarch, in the season of roses, is also a sensation. It is a complete carnival with camel rides in the Zakir Hussain Rose Garden which has the credit of being Asia’s largest. Sprawled over 30 acres, the garden has 50,000 rose bushes of 1,600 different species. The trees dotting the garden have medicinal values.

Le Corbusier

The Rose Festival sees the garden converted into a place of gaiety and mirth as people get together to celebrate the beauty of roses and spend time with family. “The new horticultural policy is factoring in the entertainment activities in city’s gardens to ensure there is minimal damage to the beauty of the garden,” says the Chief Engineer, Municipal Corporation, NP Sharma. The Smart City project aims to enhance this experience of interaction with nature with its emphasis on green cities.

Chandigarh is set to polish its already shining image of being the cleanest, greenest, city that is truly free of traditions of the past. It is a city that has fulfilled the promise of being “an expression of nation’s faith in the future,” as Jawaharlal Nehru dreamt. A “beautiful city” as Albert Mayer envisioned. It is a city that has arrived on the global scene acknowledged as the “ideal modern city” of the world.

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