(…) “A continent away, however, Le Corbusier’s architecture was triumphant. The Millowners’ Building opened in Ahmedabad.
The Millowners, an association of owners of cotton mills, was the sort of upper-echelon client Le Corbusier adored. Rich and distinguished, its members belonged to one of the highest castes in Indian society (the Jaïns) and were reputed for their generosity and public-spiritedness. They totally respected Le Corbusier.
Ahmedabad had a population of about one million people. Mahatma Gandhi, who had had a modest compound on the riverbank on the city’s ourskirts between 1915 to 1950, had been instrumental in establishing a connection between the cotton mill owners and their workers. Now their organisation, whith consciously strived for a spirit of goodwill and mutual betterment, wanted a place to assemble that would echo the human harmony they advocated. Desiring a natural setting for their meetings, they had acquired a site overlooking a river. In March 1951, the president of the association, Surottam Hutheesing, had commissioned Le Corbusier to design their headquarters.
From the start, Le Corbusier conceived of a structure with the aura of a private palace. But rather than house royalty and facilitate pomp, this streamlined equivalent of Versailles was to be a place from whith people could savor «the highly picturesque spectacle of the dyers washing their cottons and drying them on the sand, accompanied by herons, cows, buffaloes and donkeys half submerged to keep cool. « The building was intended as a platform for viewing; its external appearance was a secondary consideration. Le Corbusier designed the main elements of each floor as frameworks for the panorama. Architecture would organize and compose the myriad elements of the vista and create glassless picture windows for the benefit of the building’s staff as much as for the distinguished mill owners, who would period-ically meet there.