Letter: An Indian city well worth listing

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The Independent Online
Sir: I and my husband and partner, Maxwell Fry, spent three years in India doing designs for the housing, hospital, colleges, health centre, swimming pools, shops, etc, for Chandigarh ('India's oddest city under threat', 13 July). Corbusier agreed to do designs for the capital city's important buildings and to advise on the masterplan. This was after we had visited him in Paris. Previously, he had (I learnt later) turned down the opportunity.

The reason for the fiasco in the positioning of the 'Capitol' buildings is because of the decision, taken very late, not to have a governor, and hence no palace. It is a very great error not to have another building in its place. The palace was a beautiful design and would just have enabled the composition to 'hold'.

Max and I, who lived on the plain when nothing of the new city existed, also tried hard to get it protected. The criticism of Corbusier's work was largely because the concrete 'shaders' round the high court heated rather than cooled it, and in the end it had to be air-conditioned. Again this was not Corbusier's fault. Originally, the court was not going to function in the hot season.

Of course, Chandigarh should be listed. It is strange that I, the only one of the senior architects still alive, have not been consulted. I would indeed like to raise my voice. We housed more than 20,000 families while Max and I were working there, and when I returned I found the city very popular. Those who use words like 'total disaster' know nothing of what has gone on. In my case, for example, I built hundreds of houses for sweepers (who were omitted from the budget). I did it, I'm afraid, by making the judges share a bathroom with their wives (to their horror]). I feel like writing to the Prime Minister; I would have gone to see Nehru.

Bless the Independent for drawing attention to the need to class Chandigarh as a Unesco World Heritage City. Chandigarh has completely changed the planning of India for the better. England could learn from it.

Yours sincerely,



Co. Durham

19 July