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Contesting visions: hybridity, liminality and authorship of the Chandigarh plan

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This article examines the authorship of the plan for Chandigarh, the new capital of the Punjab, created following its partition consequential on Indian independence. The literature on Chandigarh's planning, celebrated principally because of the central involvement of Le Corbusier, is largely architect-centric, escriptive and positivist, with few critical evaluations. Despite exposing readers to the complexities involved in planning the city, scholars anchor their narratives around what they call the 'Corbusier Plan'. As they talk about it, they create and shape the Corbusier Plan as a unified and uncontested creation. Also missing in the discourse is the idea that people - including administrators, politicians and planners - are not passive recipients of external ideas; ideas do not get transmitted across cultural boundaries without mediation. The exclusive praising of Corbusier only reflects the poverty of the discourse and its narrators. This paper offers another narrative. It argues that the plan is negotiated between multiple agencies and is not the creation of a single author. As most of the actors advocated various 'modernities', the plan represents 'contested modernities' and a particular moment in the planning process characterized by the collision and collusion of the advocates representing different imaginations for India and Chandigarh, identities, details and the compromises they made. No single imagination emerged victorious; no one author created the plan. They very idea of plural authorship, or authority, challenges the order of the discourse as it is. However, the plan is much more chaotic, hybrid, liminal and diverse than its architect-centred discourse suggests.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Urban Planning Ball State University Muncie Indiana IN 47306 USA, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2004-04-01

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