Pierre Jeanneret – Architecture

chandigarh 1951-1956

Pierre Jeanneret, much more than the English architects (Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry), embraced a genuine Indian perspective and was sincerely in touch with the country and its rituals. It is important to place his arrival in India into context.
At the time, India was still an exotic, little known land for most Europeans. There were still huge social and cultural differences, very limited exchanges with Europe, apart from England. The deep friendship he felt for the people of India and for his cook in particular, and his acceptance of this civilization allowed him to seek the best architectural solution for them. (…)

Presentation of the Governor’s Palace to Nehru, flanked by Pierre Jeanneret, Eulie Chowdhury and other associates around 1960.

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

Pierre Jeanneret’s architecture was now part of a local context. He relied on the observation of lifestyles and created on this basis an intellectually honest response to the construction problems that he faced.
Prior to this architectural approach and true to his ethics, he forced himself to understand the specific conditions of building in India. Factoring this reality into his plans allowed him to meet a triple objective of low budget projects, ease of implementation, and speed of execution. His approach can be summarized in a few master principles which verify the entire production.

Pierre Jeanneret and his furniture. On the left, bamboo fireside chair (ref. PJ-SI-02-A) and street light made by him (ref. PJ-LU-01-A). On the right, a “charpoy”, traditional Indian bed. In the middle, a sliced tree trunk resting on bricks serves as a low table,  around 1955.

 

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

First of all, we discover a great clarity of bias in the plan and construction system implemented in Chandigarh. Pierre Jeanneret adopted standard plans for certain categories of buildings especially the schools.

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris. © Photo C. Baraja – E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

He also paid special attention to the climate which is decisive in the entire local life style. By creating cool areas shaded by verandahs and porticos in front of buildings as well as transversal ventilations through the layout of the plan, he made sure that the city and buildings remained pleasant even in the hot season, at a period when the absence of air conditions could have turned these buildings into genuine ovens unfit for living.

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

The last point is the role of traditional materials which Pierre Jeanneret used express rhythm, cornice outlines in a very simple but nevertheless diversified combination. For example, the bricks are made from clay, the masonry is based on rubble and the reinforced concrete contains small prefabricated components. (…)

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris. © Archives Fondation Le Corbusier.

Detail, wall bonding in river stones, around 1965.

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

This disciplined design allowed Pierre Jeanneret to develop a specific, abundant work which while covering multiple programs and needs had to make up the homogenous, yet non-monotonous fabric of the city. Therefore, even though he had to follow the planning instructions of Le Corbusier, he was personally in charge of the construction of housing for all social categories, from nursery schools to university buildings, a host of hotels, various homes for MPs, open-air theaters, the Town Hall, City Centre, the Chandigarh Central State Library and the Gandhi Bhawan, a beautiful construction where Pierre Jeanneret fully expressed his talent. (…)

Pierre Jeanneret at his desk in the Architects’ Office now referred to as the Old Architect Center, identifiable by its chimney in the background. Various pieces of furniture and accessories ”fixed” by PJ. On the bookcase, statue of Modulor, “Bull” painting by Le Corbusier. Taped to the wall is a large collage of Le Corbusier which is later found framed in a bedroom (Le Corbusier’s bedroom?) of PJ’s house. Around 1955.

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

Rear façade view. Note the “charpoys” brought out into the garden in the hot season (traditionals Indian beds). Lucien Hervé, 1955.

 

© Photos Lucien Hervé. Archives Judith et Lucien Hervé, Paris.

“To study the earth architecture of the houses, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret used to go up the hills during their free time. Le Corbusier wanted to write and draw in his notebooks. The cousins were fascinated by the sculptural quality of the earth houses”.

EULIE CHOWDURRY

 

Entrance porch, staircase and awning of the Nursery School III, sector 23, 1999.

 

© Photo E. Touchaleaume. Archives Galerie 54, Paris.

“How could I not be enthralled, when strolling through the city in search of Pierre Jeanneret’s minimalist architecture I stumbled on a delicate little construction full of architectural treasures, which was even just a nursery school, reminiscent of the purist designs of the 1930s, produced together with Le Corbusier.”

 

 Curved short walls, modeled on the traditional walls of the neighboring villages. Nursery School II, sector 16 (1955-56), Lucien Hervé 1955.

 

© Photos Lucien Hervé. Archives Judith et Lucien Hervé, Paris.

Façade of Pierre Jeanneret’s house 

”4J” type, designed for senior officers, this simple and homely house reflects the personality of its occupant, both in the architecture and its interior decoration. Pierre Jeanneret lived here during its construction from 1954 to 1965. We see the use of local materials and components of his Indian architectural vocabulary, expressed in multiple combinations in the different types of housing designed for Chandigarh, from the “peon’s house” to the city’s four large private residences its affluent citizens. Overhanging or retreating entrance porch, narrow openings to “trap” light – jutting ledges, square or triangular – roof terrace, are all features of these constructions.

The contrast of walls built with river pebbles, brick screen walls and sparkling white rendered surfaces reveals an elegant and orderly modenature.

© Photos Lucien Hervé. Archives Judith et Lucien Hervé, Paris.

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

Edited photo. Subdivision for the private houses (“2 J” type), Lucien Hervé 1955.

 

© Photos Lucien Hervé. Archives Judith et Lucien Hervé, Paris.

Entrance portico “Hostel for Boys” of the College of Polytechnic, around 1960.

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

M.L.A. Flat. Block of flats for civil servants. (Members Legislative Assembly). Several units. 1956-1966, around 1960.

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

Rear façade of the Art Block with deep recesses serving as brise-soleil, around 1965.

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

“Pagoda” silhouette of the Administrative building, reflecting in its pool, around 1965.

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

 Open-air Theater, bleachers, around 1965.

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

Primary School (1961), around 1961.
- Balcony detail of the “Hostel for Boys”, Lucien Hervé 1961.

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris. © Photos Lucien Hervé. Archives Judith et Lucien Hervé, Paris.

 Gandhi Bhawan, around 1965.

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

 

 

Gandhi Bhawan. 1966, around 1970.

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

At the same time, Pierre Jeanneret executed his mission with the resources available in place and brought Le Corbusier’s vision for Chandigarh to life. He built the Capitol, the High Court of Justice, the Legislative Assembly and the Secretariat building. This work is done together by the two men, whenever Le Corbusier went to Chandigarh each year and continued through an abundant correspondence between the two after his departure. (…)

- P.L. Varma, Chief Engineer, Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret. In foreground, architect’s table (ref. PJ-TAT-04-A).
- Sign board “Offices of the Chief Architect Capital Project Chandigarh / Chief Engineer …”, around 1955.

 

 

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris. © Fondation Le Corbusier, Paris.

Pierre Jeanneret was assisted in his work by the Chandigarh bureau of architects, comprised mostly of young Indian architects that he took under his wing and trained. He was known and recognized as Nehru’s friend, accepted and sincerely admired by the Indians. His agency received numerous projects. He was appointed the head of the Chandigarh College of Architecture then Chief Architect and Town Planning Adviser to the State of Panjab. He directed city planning and architecture projects in the cities of Pandoh, Sundernagar, Slapper and Ahmedabad. (…

Architectural classroom with aligned desks and stools, around 1965.

 

© Photos Studio Indiano, Chandigarh. Archives Eric Touchaleaume, Paris.

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