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The city’s story

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Architect Sangeet Sharma goes on an exploratory journey of Chandigarh architecture in his new book, Corb’s Capitol. Dr SS Bhatti, former Principal of the Chandigarh College of Architecture, reviews it.

In this fascinating book, ‘Corb’s Capitol: A journey through Chandigarh Architecture’, Chandigarh-based architect Sangeet Sharma appropriately focuses attention on Corb’s Capitol to bring Chandigarh’s architecture alive by exploiting the intrinsic symbolic terms in which the ‘capital’ city and the ‘capitol’ complex are inseparable – “just as the popular image of France is inseparable from the Eiffel Tower or that of Australia from the Sydney Opera House.”

The success of his experiment with his last book ‘Architecture, Life and Me’ provided the impetus to Sangeet Sharma. He says, “I have stuck to my plain and straightforward style of writing.”

In my assessment, it is a refreshing departure from the all-too-familiar verbose style of well-established writers who offer, in dilating upon disciplines like architecture, such stodgy stuff as a vast majority of readers find too heavy to swallow, much less digest.

I think most authors of books on technical subjects, which also are intrinsically creative, write without first having a clear-cut idea of their target readership.

But Sangeet Sharma addresses the contents of his book to everybody involved in the city with unwavering focus on students of architecture.

In this respect, the book is an exceptionally articulate exposition of ideas and concepts on which the magnificent architecture of Chandigarh, especially Le Corbusier’s matchless masterpieces which adorn the Capitol Complex, have been created as architectural marvels of the modern world.

Not only do the offbeat contents of the book bear captions which instantly arouse your curiosity, but they also bring the city alive by involving the distinguished Capitol visitors in an animated dialogue right on the site of the celebrated complex, which the American architect Paul Rudolph had called “the greatest of the 20th century” way back in 1960.

The book has six sections titled: ‘Amedeo: Chandigarh’s search for identity’; ‘Andrew: The secrets of the Secretariat’; ‘Sudhir-Mahindra Raj: High Court’s protected parasol’; ‘SD Sharma-Sarayu Ahuja: The city and its urban patterns’; ‘BV Doshi: The mystics of the Capitol Complex’; and, ‘Me: The acceptance of the weird’.

The book also contains ‘Quotes of Le Corbusier’ which the author has painstakingly collected over the years, besides ‘Excerpts from the Author’s Blog’, in which he has attempted to answer some very probing questions by his readers with reference to the context of the book under review.

Sangeet Sharma’s sketches illustrate crucial points in the master architect’s unparalleled architectural creativity while imparting a subtle visual charm to the written word.

Sharma is a practising architect as a partner in SD Sharma & Associates, a well-known firm in Chandigarh. He has to his credit many reputed projects and has won several awards in architecture.

Sharma is involved in the promotion of Chandigarh architecture by writing and through his organisation called A3 Foundation. He is the author of ‘Architecture, Life and Me’, a memoir that talks about the profession in a wider perspective.

This book, which won him instant recognition, has been widely sold across the country. Sharma is also the author of ‘Architectural Aesthetics’; ‘Step by Step Hospital Planning and Designing’, and a poetry anthology titled ‘The Touch of Moon’.

Sharma’s book is a dialogue between the city of Chandigarh and the architects. It is a compelling narration of Chandigarh’s growth alongside the city’s transformative experiences with the rhythm of time.

The book is a delightful orchestration of the author’s intimate conversations with the visitors who come to Chandigarh to seek inspiration and insight; besides stimulation that enhances their sense of aesthetic appreciation or exalts their ability for artistic creation. Narrated in a simple, witty and straightforward style, the technique adopted by the author is hypnotic.

The book not only provides information about Le Corbusier’s greatest masterpiece, the Capitol Complex in Chandigarh, but also entertains through its amusing and sharp snapshots of the way this modern city and its architecture have been taking shape.

Moderately priced, the book should be well within the reach of anyone who desires to know Chandigarh, especially the Capitol Complex that is a living example of Le Corbusier’s virtuosity in architectural creativity, beyond what meets the eye or must go beyond populist hearsay to lay bare its intrinsic grandeur.

However, I strongly feel that the quality of pictures, particularly the ones printed in black-and-white, leaves much to be desired.

At any rate, in an unremitting analysis and final assessment, Sangeet Sharma’s ‘Corb’s Capitol’ is an important milestone in architectural writing as a narration which says something serious, without being stodgy, in a style that instantly drugs you into listening with all your mind and heart to what he so animatedly says.

Note: The 248-page book has been published by Abhishek Publications in paperback. Price: Rs 195. The author can be contacted at www.sangeetsharma.org

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